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40 MPH Winds and 18 Foot Waves

Ok we aren’t out in this….but that was happening on Lake Michigan while we're tied up in Chicago writing this on the weather of all weather days of the trip. The gale winds that are sweeping through the Great Lakes have made national news, where winds are 40+ mph and waves expected as high as 18 feet. Needless to say, we are glad we are tied up and generally relieved our Great Lakes are behind us. But we also kinda wish it wasn’t over. Here are the highlights.

Got roughed up a little

We knew the longer we were on the Great Lakes, the less opportunities there would be for good weather windows. Overall, our travel days were pretty calm and we like to think we picked our weather windows well. But we also didn’t want to get stuck in a port for days on end. So on one one day, we decided to battle 6-8 foot waves so we could get to an area that would provide calmer winds and we could avoid getting stuck. It also happened to be our longest travel day (11 hours and 56 minutes and 101.2 miles) from Port Austin to Presque Isle, through one of the most remote areas of the trip.

After 9 hours of cruising (through both washing machine and calm waters), the last part took its heaviest toll. We started to encounter bigger waves, fog, rain, and heard communications from the Coast Guard of a capsized sailboat just a few miles ahead of us. But we were at a point of no return, there was no choice but to move forward. While it was not a comfortable ride, we never felt in danger because Sweet Day handled those waves like a champ, and there was a sense of (probably false) security coming in with the Coast Guard towing the capsized sailboat (we found out the owner put on the market the very next day). But it wasn't until we got to land did we realize how tense our whole bodies were from the journey and we were so thankful to have made it safely. It was a leg of the journey that helped us learn ours and Sweet Day’s limits, and helped us make decisions to avoid traveling in that kind of waters again.

Northern Michigan is pretty remote (but beautiful)

Cruising through remote waters and small towns can be incredibly beautiful, but you’re always aware that should Sweet Day break down, help is much harder to find. We had also met at least two looper boats that broke down and had to go through hoops to get their boats back up and running (including waiting hours for a tow) in the same area where we cruised through rough waters.

Lucky for us, Sweet Day broke down before this remote section so we didn’t need a mechanic or a tow and instead could focus on enjoying Northern Michigan’s remoteness stress-free. Walking on empty beaches, hiking surrounded by pine trees, enjoying a treat at a small cafe, it is always rejuvenating being able to experience these tiny corners of earth we likely wouldn’t have visited otherwise.

Leland was our favorite town (that we saw)

We pulled into Leland mostly because it was the most convenient stop after a long day of cruising, not really knowing anything about the area. We’re so glad we did. Also known as “Fishtown,” it was a commercial fishing town in the 1900s, and many of the buildings are still in place today repurposed into tiny artisanal and food shops. Beautiful homes, fun downtown, great beach, and cool history--worth a stop.

Sleeping Dunes kicked our butts

We really wanted to visit Sleeping Dunes National Lakeshore, and if we weren’t in a hurry to get south, would have waited for a weather window to anchor behind one of the Manitou Islands. But instead, we decided to bike to the mainland dunes to check it off our bucket list. It involved a 22 mile bike ride each way plus a 4 mile barefoot hike in the sand. While it totally kicked our butts and one of the most physically exhausting days on the loop, couldn’t beat the views of Lake Michigan and so glad we did it. Instagram

Coming into Chicago is pretty exhilarating

Our last 2 days on Lake Michigan were beautiful. Sunny skies, calm blue waters, and Sweet Day was running great. It made us almost not want this part of the trip to end. But what made it even better was seeing the Chicago skyline emerge across the horizon and this feeling of accomplishment--we caught up, conquered the lakes, and friends and family we had been waiting to see in the windy city were finally in reach. We anchored for an hour before we pulled into our slip and celebrated with a short swim (the first time we jumped off the boat!). Instagram

Can’t wait until one day can visit the places we missed

We were rushed during our Great Lakes journey--it took us only two weeks in what we had planned to do in at least a month. While our pace was by design, we were bummed we had to skip a few places we wanted to see on our list (Drummond Islands, Traverse City, Beaver Island just to name a few). And as we were pulling into Chicago, we couldn’t help but feel a bit sad that this portion of the loop was behind us. But as any looper will tell you, it’s impossible to see it all on one loop, so can't wait to catch these spots another time.

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