This online document is a means of sharing the adventure of traveling on America's waterways with friends and family. Last Dance is continuing to take her crew to historical, natural, beautiful, and interesting places. Enjoy the ride.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, St. Marys River, to Sault Ste. Marie

From Charlevoix, Last Dance traveled north on Lake Michigan, through Grays Reef, which is a narrow passage through shallow waters in the northern end of the lake.  The lake is very wide at this point, but the passage available in deep water is small.  Lighthouses were constructed to help mariners navigate through this cut.  The main lighthouse is still operational, although automated and unmanned, the secondary lighthouse at White Shoal (above) has been abandoned and is now listed on the charts as Abandoned Lighthouse.

After passing through the Straits of Mackinac, under the huge Mackinac Bridge and entering Lake Huron, the first land encountered is Mackinac Island.  Ferries bring tourists to the island from the mainland many times a day.  The most famous feature, and the location for the movie "Somewhere in Time," is the Grand Hotel.

Another narrow passage is created by Mackinac Island and the larger Bois Blanc Island, immediately to the east.  Large ships traveling to and from Lake Superior pass through this spot, reason why it is marked with two lighthouses - this lighthouse on the Mackinac Island side, and . . .

. . . the older design Bois Blanc Island lighthouse, directly opposite.  Lighthouses were most important to the shipping industry in the Great Lakes as many thousands of ships were lost before the initiative to build lighthouses began.

The north shore of Lake Huron has a group of islands which create numerous, protected anchorages.  One, known as Government Bay, served as an overnight stop for Last Dance.

The west end of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan has a long shoal extending to the south.  This is the point where ships turn to the north and enter the St. Marys River, heading to Lake Superior.  This is the Detour Reef Lighthouse, marking that mass of rocks and shoals.

A closer look at this image reveals a couple walking on the deck.  Michigan is selling some of the Great Lake lighthouses to private parties.  A lighthouse would make an interesting summer cottage.

Once into the DeTour Passage and the St. Marys River, the large volume of shipping still plying the Great Lakes becomes more obvious.

In the narrow St. Marys River (narrow in comparison to the ships size) many aids to navigation are needed to keep the ships in deep water so they do not go aground.  Here, the green/red/green marker designates the spot where the channel divides around Neebish Island, with upbound ships taking the eastern channel and the downbound ships taking the western.  The channels are not wide enough to handle two ships traveling in opposite directions.  An important marker.  For upbound traffic, the green/red/green is a green marker, noting that the correct passage is between the red and the g/r/g.    For those who have noticed this shot was made while the boat is outboard of the red marker, placing Last Dance outside of the channel, you are correct.  But, since Last Dance does not draw 30+ feet of water like freighters, sufficient depth was available outside of the channel.

Another aid is range markers, two markers on shore of differing heights, which when lined up, indicate that the ship is in the center of the channel.  This image was made too close to shore to see the taller range marker farther inland.  Interesting though, that the marker is placed in front of a small church on St. Joseph Island on the Canadian side of the channel.  Also interesting that the church was built facing the water rather than inland.

When first sighted, this house appeared to be a cottage with a feature that made it resemble a lighthouse.  In fact, it is a lighthouse, one of a very different design, located in the St. Marys River, on Round Island, on the US side of the river.  Lighthouse architecture is always different and always interesting.

Round Island is located just west of another island, Lime Island, which is a story in itself.

Lime Island

Once a fueling station for the big freighters, Lime Island is now a Michigan State Park.  The long wharf was built for freighters to dock on both sides and be loaded with coal to power their steam engines.  It was later updated with fuel tanks for diesel-powered boats.  Someone finally decided that it did not make much sense for fuel to be shipped to an island then pumped onto the freighters and the fueling station was closed.

A whole village was built on the island to house the workers and their families.  The houses still remain and are now rented by the park as cottages.

It was a large enough village that it required a school for the children of the workers who lived on the island.  Businesses addressed the needs of workers more completely in those days.

Ships still pass by Lime Island on their way to and from Lake Superior, they just don't stop here anymore.

Even cruise ships pass by on the St. Marys River.  This is the Pearl Mist, one of two good-sized cruise ships that sail the great lakes in the summer.  Pearl Mist and Last Dance crossed paths a number of times.

The island is now filled with hiking trails and notes of its varied history.  It once had lime mines and a lime kiln, thus its name.  Then, it had summer cottages for the wealthy.  How it transitioned from a summer place to a fueling station was never explained.  The island had been abandoned for years before the state obtained the property for a park.  It is good that such an island has been preserved for all to enjoy.

There was a day of rain during Last Dance's stay at the island.  The imposition of the rain was rewarded by a huge rainbow in the afternoon.