It’s not that unusual for us to wake up with posters’ remorse, generally relating to something offensive we left in the last post or something interesting we left out. Tuesday morning’s regret was forgetting to thank Deb and Sam for making the trip down. It definitely was great to spend a couple of days with them.
What we didn’t regret on Tuesday morning was leaving Harbor Springs in calm conditions that are becoming increasingly rare. After days of absurd wind, it almost felt odd to have not much of it.
Nice easy trip over to Beaver Island, which irrelevantly for our purposes is Michigan’s third largest island.* For our purposes, Beaver Island is a new stop and conveniently located in the middle of Lake Michigan, thus breaking up what otherwise would’ve been an excruciatingly long day.
The main “town” on Beaver Island—population 600—is St. James. Given the decidedly Irish tone of the island, one might assume there’s a Catholic history to the name.** Nope. One James Strang—a Mormon dude who oozed self-importance—named it for himself. Not a whole heck of a lot going on in St. James on Tuesday evening.
In 1844, Strang dubbed himself “King Strang” and became one of roughly a zillion crackpots claiming to be the true LDS “Prophet, Seer, and Revelator.” As the King, Strang led an “ecclesiastical monarchy” that dominated Beaver Island for nearly a decade. Unfortunately he died in 1856, thereby preventing Doug from stopping by to gawk at the silliness.
The sign marking the site of Strang’s assassination notes that two “disgruntled followers” shot and clubbed him as he was about to visit the U.S.S. Michigan.
What the sign doesn’t mention is why those two followers were disgruntled. Turns out Strang ordered all the Strangite women of the realm to wear certain Temple drawers, and when two women refused, Strang flogged their husbands right into understandable disgruntlement. So basically he had it coming. After he died, folks came over and burned down all the buildings and drove the Mormons to places unknown and now nobody at all adheres to Strang’s dress code. The only thing left is what used to be the Mormon Print Shop.
There’s other stuff on Beaver Island, like the Lodge where we had a delicious dinner. And a lighthouse. If anyone ever invites us over for dinner and trivia, and one of the trivia questions is “President McKinley’s nephew Peter was a keeper at what lighthouse?”, we confidently can identify the Beaver Island Harbor Light.
Apart from the placement of poles we had to shimmy around while shoehorning Tumbleweed into a spot intended for boats half as wide, Beaver Island was a fantastic stop.
Wednesday morning brought even better conditions, likely to give us a false sense of security before some apocalyptical disaster befalls us. But we took advantage anyway. Up at dawn, delayed only by the ferry leaving just ahead.
Lake Michigan was impossibly flat. Spooky calm. Still waters run deep, however, and Tumbleweed is a deep draft boat, so we felt pretty good about things.
Wednesday’s destination was Manistique, our one and only stop on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula this year. We knew we were on the U.P. because after we arrived and walked into town to the pizza place that was closed during hours that the sign suggested otherwise, we saw the shape prominently displayed. Everywhere. None of the “mitten” nonsense that downstaters hype.
To get in to Manistique, however, we had to navigate the harbor. The first part was easy, because we just hooked around the big red lighthouse.
From there, it was a straight shot right into the tow boat maneuvering the barges from which the dredging operations were blocking everything. Only after waiting a bit for a chance opening were we able to sneak by.
From our research, we know that Manistique has a lot of cool stuff going on. Like the Annual Flannel Festival at the end of the month, which we assume everyone was busy resting up for because nobody was around. We did walk over the coolest water tower we’ve ever seen, however.
The steel tank inside held 200,000 gallons, and could be gravity-fed through a turbine to create electricity. The tower’s main attraction is the outside, of course, although it would’ve provided a poor canvas for Billy Bob to express his feelings “in letters three-foot high.”***
Mostly we spent last evening worrying about today’s forecast. Big wind again. Big waves again. The joint on Washington Island said they’d have a wide slip waiting for us, however, and we figured the bad stuff wouldn’t hit until 3, and most importantly Friday looked to be much worse.
We thought we’d get up at 6:30 and leave around 7. No need to worry about missing our 6:30 alarms, because the dredge guys were on the job at 6, clanging around outside our open windows.
Might as well make lemonade. The early jolting awake allowed a quick breakfast and pre-dawn departure, the latter of which we hoped would shave off a few minutes of hell from the back end. By the time we reached the lighthouse, we didn’t even need it.
We’ve previously observed that the only redeeming thing about leaving before dawn is that, barring clouds—or, God forbid, fog—we can watch the sun come up. Yes, they all look the same. But yes, we still enjoy them.
Even not counting the sunrise, things started off great. Michigan may deserve to be loathed for its disgusting spiders and even more disgusting Jim Harbaugh, but the awesome shoreline of its many islands deserves a standing ovation.
The trip down to Washington Island took us around a bunch of them, so we should know.
Dana’s calculations suggested that the wind and waves would hit us around 11. Eastern Time. Which meant that all her careful calculations were off by 60 minutes once we left Michigan waters. And meant that we’d be arriving an hour earlier than the marina guys agreed to be there to help us in.
An hour or two into the day, the Coast Guard marine weather update said things would ramp up to 25 knot wind and eight foot waves by evening, right about where we were heading. Although the wind did start increasing and the waves intermittently threw spray up over the pilothouse—which intermittently sucked—we were tucked in to the mostly deserted Kaps Marina well before the nasty stuff hit. Hey! This is our first boating stop in Wisconsin! The last new state will be Minnesota, which we plan to check off next summer.
Kaps Marina has been owned and run by the Krueger family since Will and Lois bought it way back in 1978. Will passed away in January. Lois died two weeks ago, leaving the sons to run the place. We didn’t know either Will or Lois so obviously won’t be attending the “sharing of memories” event at the marina restaurant on Saturday, but we do sympathize with those who will miss her.
We’ll explore Washington Island and hopefully play some pickleball, because we’re staying here until at least Sunday. A Small Craft Advisory is in effect, and in this context we consider Tumbleweed to be the size of a kayak.
*The second largest is Drummond Island, which we visited in 2018. Hopefully we’ll complete the trifecta by reaching Isle Royale during next summer’s planned Lake Superior expedition. Extrapolating from Jules in Pulp Fiction, we assume “Royale” is French for “quarter-pounder,” although we won’t know the connection to a Michigan island until we get there.
**The Beaver Island family trees may not be quite as twisted as, say, those of Tangier or McClellanville, but on our scooter cruise around St. James we found a remarkably large number of Gallaghers.
***“And the whole town said the boy should’ve used red but it looked good to Charlene. In John Deere green.”
2 thoughts on “Strang people, new state, and RIP Lois”
Your writing makes me laugh out loud frequently. Very fun.