Ha. We found some unused lyrics after all

Before anyone is frightened off by the length of this lengthy post, don’t worry.  It’s mostly photos.  Just don’t apply that formula equating each picture to a thousand words and it’ll be fine.

Back to Sault Ste. Marie.  We didn’t leave as planned.  Experience informs us that doing locks in rain is unpleasant, and it’s not hard to extrapolate that it’d be even less pleasant if the rain is coming down when it’s 46°.  That’s what we faced when we awoke Tuesday morning.  Yuck.

Plus, a Small Craft Advisory was in effect in the zone on the other side of Grand Marais and it seemed possible—if not likely—that at least some of that danger might slop over into the zone we’d spend hours crossing to get there.   Eleven hours of crap seemed like a poor way to celebrate Dana’s birthday, so we stayed put.

Unfortunately, as we’ve also learned, cold and rain don’t mix well with exploration or outside boat chores.  But we did mange a bit of both.  From Tumbleweed’s deck we could see Valley Camp, a former steam-propelled laker turned museum.

As the big freighters go she’s smaller than most, but the museum part was fabulous.  Long-time followers will recall the photo of the bullet-ridden Maersk Alabama lifeboat that Captain Phillips—the real Captain Phillips not Forrest Gump—was in when Navy SEALS sniped the woefully ignorant Somali pirates.  That was a cool lifeboat.  This one is just as cool.  It’s from Edmund Fitzgerald, and washed ashore the day after the sinking.

Lots of other stuff, and basically every corner of the ship was open for inspection.  Very worthwhile.  From Valley Camp’s wet bridge deck we could see Tumbleweed.

Dana found some shops, and Doug fashioned a decidedly inelegant but more stable support for the Starlink dishy.  Maybe not the best birthday, but a lot better than meeting a storm.

Wednesday looked to be a decent day to travel, although the sun that peeked out as we left the marina at 6:15 disappeared quickly.  The lock dudes took us straight into the lock.  Easy peasy.

Although they sent us through the smaller MacArthur Lock, the adjacent lock demands mention.  Poe Reef and Poe Lighthouse are one thing, but Poe Lock?  Who named it “Poe Lock?”  Archie Bunker?*

Twelve miles of comforting St. Marys River shoreline later, we dumped out into Whitefish Bay.  Lake Superior.  The largest lake in the world by surface area.**  Superior holds 10% of the earth’s fresh water, along with what we guess probably is the world’s largest supply of delicious whitefish.  Last December, the lake dropped two inches — which equaled 1.1 trillion gallons.  To put that into Arizona perspective, a foot of Lake Superior water poured into Lake Powell would dang near put it over the top of Glen Canyon Dam.  Damn.

We know, we know.  Lake Superior looks just like Lake Huron, and Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario.  Which makes sense, of course, since the water up here is on its way down the St. Lawrence Seaway, past where we fought biting flies with Second Wave after finally leaving Oswego, past where we met No Drama in Quebec City, past where we watched Laughter sink in Sainte-Madeleine-de-la-Rivière-Madeleine, and out to the Atlantic Ocean.  But yet we still take the pictures.

Months ago we dropped a chart pin directly above the Fitzgerald wreckage, thinking maybe we’d pop over for a photo shoot.  Um, not a chance.  We rounded Whitefish Point and made a beeline for Grand Marais.

But the Mighty Fitz is fifteen miles straight out there, under 530 feet of frigid water and a blanket of light fog.

We know how far she’s out because “the searchers all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay if they’d put fifteen more miles behind her.”  Plus we could measure it on our charts.  It bears noting, however, that if Captain McSorley had patiently waited for smooth water like we did, things might’ve turned out differently for those 29 souls who never surfaced.***

Then the fog got foggier and mostly stuck with us for the five hours into Grand Marais, lifting only briefly to reveal the Crisp Point Light.  Now it’s just an historical site, completely worthless to us.  And not even very pretty.

There’s nothing wrong with fog at night while we’re sleeping between flannel sheets under mounds of blankets, of course, but any other time cold, clammy, can’t-see-a-damn-thing fog is a pain.  Yet there it was again in West Bay on Thursday, although not nearly as thick.

Thursday also brought another Small Craft Advisory.  Five hours to Munising in this crap?  Fog-et about it.  We’ll ride it out with shore power, Starlink, and the heaters blasting.

Fortunately the drizzle and fog faded just in time for a four-mile hike to see Sable Falls and Sable Dunes.  The only sad part was that by the time we got back to the trailhead the bear in the parking lot was gone, so no pictures of him or her.

Friday morning the sun sort of was out, but then more unpredicted fog descended, but then the sun came back out for good.  Hey now!  Things are looking up.

Here’s the thing.  When the sun is out, Grand Marais is dang appealing.  The former logging and shipping center now is a summer vacation destination for Yoopers.

The neatest of the historical buildings is The Pickle Barrel House, built by a syndicated Chicago Tribune cartoonist whose Teenie Weenies apparently lived in a much smaller one.

The best thing about being fog-stuck for a couple of extra days in Grand Marias, however, was that we unexpectedly caught the annual Seaplane Pilots Association “Splash-In.”  Now that was awesome.

In addition to catching seaplanes, Dana got an action shot of some dudes who don’t mind 44° water and think the whole “electrical current in marinas can kill you” thing is a myth.  Those crazy Yoopers.  Go figure.  We don’t know if they survived, because we left.

Gorgeous trip to Munising, in large part because we swerved over to follow along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Lots of spectacular stuff along there.  Sort of like the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton, but with fewer references to Family Affair’s Mr. French.

Our friend Deb warned us about the “Fata Morgana,” an optical illusion caused by visible light bending through air layers of different temperatures.  There’s a school of thought that Titanic and her potential rescuers were fooled by this phenomenon.  We don’t know if we saw one, but what we did see was pretty odd.  The upper dark band is an island.  The lower dark band that looks like a wall isn’t real.  But we didn’t hit anything.

In addition to the bit about lifeboats, long-time followers also know of our affinity for lighthouses.  We’ve photographed a mess of ’em.  The East Channel Light (RIP) easily is top-five.  Built out of sticks in 1868 by people who obviously didn’t know the story of the Three Little Pigs, it served mariners traversing Munising Bay—sort of—until 1908.  In 1908 someone realized that the lamp was so weak that ships were smashing into rocks anyway, which explains all the glass-bottom boats running shipwreck tours around Munising.  Who cares though?   It’s super cool.

Now about Munising.  Fine little town, we guess.

They even have an art district, although technically it’s just an alley.

The municipal marina mostly serves the tour boat population.  Those boats are indestructible tanks, but they put us out with them on the industrial wall even though Tumbleweed isn’t.  This undoubtedly colored our opinion of Munising, and not in a good way.

That long dock was built for commercial shipping back in 1938, which means that the steel with uneven edges that we had to step over when unsafely getting on or off the boat has been rusting nicely for 85 years.  It wasn’t quite as dangerous as when we tied up to a barge at Logsdon Tug Service on the Illinois River, but close.  We later inflated and deployed the huge fenders we normally save for the scary locks we encounter from time to time.

Unless they fix the floating transient docks by the time we come back through, we ain’t stopping at Munising again.  To add insult, Tennessee lost to LSU in the College World Series.  Grrrr.

This morning was a warm-ish, sunny-ish, smooth-ish, easy-ish run to Marquette.  First thoughts?  Of the zillion things we’ve seen that somehow are related to the good Father Marquette, Marquette is at the top.  The marina is awesome, the staff is great, and everything we tried at our first restaurant was crazy delicious.

On the way in to Cinder Pond Marina, we passed a giant something sticking out into the water.

What’s that thing in the water?  It’s an old iron ore dock, that’s what.  We know this, because the restaurant folks fielded the question enough to put the answer on their shirts.  Dang clever, that.

Here for a week or so, then up to meet Tom and Deb and Lea on the Keweenaw Peninsula.  We’ll scout out more Marquette treasures and report them next post.  This one already pushes the page limit of decency.  Although mostly it’s photos.


*“Meathead.  Dead from the neck up.”

**The largest lake by volume is in Russia, but Russia doesn’t count any more.  Russia sucks.

***“Superior, they said, never gives up her dead.”  There’s a reason for that.  The deep water is too cold for the bacteria that normally eat bodies until they create enough buoyant gas for said body to float.  True fact.  Somebody should tell the mob.  No need for concrete shoes on Lake Superior.

4 thoughts on “Ha. We found some unused lyrics after all”

  1. Enjoy your stay at Marquette!

    It is arguably the coolest town in the UP, although the Marquette Redmen (an even more politically incorrect name than Eskymos) were bitter Class A rivals in my high school days. At least the Marquette school system had the good sense to get rid of their Native American mascot and now pretend to be just another team on the color spectrum like, say, Syracuse.

    1. Well we looked up Marquette High School. It appears they indeed dumped their Chief mascot, but retained the “Redmen” nickname despite the offense taken by Native Americans. The girls still are the “Redettes,” which is dumb enough to offend people of all races, creeds, and political persuasion. But Marquette is awesome so far.

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