North Lake Michigan and Engine Trouble

Panorama from the fort on Mackinac Island

On our last night in Sault Ste Marie, after we returned to the boat for dinner, we walked through a group of Canadians having drinks on the dock who invited us to join them. They confirmed that there was a US border crossing checkpoint in the marina just across the river on the American side of Sault Ste Marie. In the morning, we cast off our lines, and immediately submitted our info via the border crossing app. It was about 15 minutes to get across the river and we were allowed to pull up to their fuel dock while we awaited our confirmation. After another 30 minutes of watching the app remain in “pending” status, I decided to give them a call. As it turns out, there had been so few people submitting border crossings via the app that they just hadn’t been monitoring it! In about 30 seconds, our info was processed and we were good to go. David dealt with filling up with diesel, water, and emptying our holding tanks while I hopped on the scooter and headed to a pharmacy where I would be able to fill a prescription for some tennis elbow meds that I had been waiting all through Canada to pick up.

After we were all provisioned up, we started heading south with De Tour being our potential stopping point. Shortly into the journey, David started noticing a large increase in the fuel consumption on our starboard motor. This one has always had slightly higher numbers, but these were significantly higher than normal. We also started feeling a slight vibration on that side at a certain RPM. We backed off on that engine and I started calling around to find local divers in the De Tour area, since our going assumption was that maybe we had something snagged around that prop. Unfortunately, the most local diver that I could get on the phone (on a weekend, of course) was in Mackinaw City. Since we were going a lot slower at this point, we didn’t think we would be able to make it safely to Mackinaw before it got dark, especially given that some winds were expected in northern Lake Michigan. After a bit of debate, we decided to head to Mackinac Island, which is a little bit north of Mackinaw – where we would avoid rough water and arrive just before dark. In theory we would be able to find either a diver or a boat yard in Mackinaw the next day, although this was somewhat in question due to it being Labor Day weekend.

Mackinac Island Airport Shuttle

We pulled into the Mackinac Island in the early evening, taking the last big-boat slip in the marina! Along the way, we had read up on the Grand Hotel dining experience and decided to get fancy (coat and tie required!) and head up for dinner. On Mackinac Island, there are no motorized vehicles allowed of any sort, including ebikes and electric scooters (although we later learned that after the season closes, locals use snowmobiles to get around in the winter!!), so everything is either bicycles or horse and carriage. I wanted to ride in a carriage to dinner, but we did not realize you needed to book this in advance, so we ended up walking. Luckily I had just bought some new fancy shoes that are actually comfortable to walk in!

I really wanted David to call me Alicia and I would call him Juliooooooooooooo, but he didn’t really want to comply. (Please, go and watch “Grand Hotel” [Ed note: don’t]). Dinner at the Grand Hotel is an EVENT. They have three different menus that they rotate each night throughout the season. You are directed into an ENORMOUS dining room and you have several different servers throughout the dinner. Our service was a little bit lack-luster, with our drinks server not seeming to care at all what we ordered. We were told there was a full bar, and when David tried to order a rum negroni, we discovered the only rum they had was Bacardi :). The food was delicious though, and it was quite a fun evening.

Another Looper couple we had met in Canada was also in the marina, and after chatting with them for a while, and looking at the weather forecast, which was going to be extremely windy for the next few days, we decided that we would stay at Mackinac and actually experience the island, rather than leaving early the next morning. We figured we would be more likely to find either a Yanmar service shop and/or a diver after Labor Day. So, the next morning, we headed up the hill to the fort that overlooked the marina. The fort/museum was actually very well done with lots of interesting exhibits.

We spent the rest of the day walking to all the major tourist spots on the island including a second fort on the highest point of the island, and a naturally forming archway. We also stopped in at the one brewery on the island, which actually doesn’t brew anything on the island. They also turned out to be a distillery, none of which was made on the island either.

At this point, the weather forecast started to look really bad with 40+kt winds predicted, and we knew we actually wouldn’t be leaving the island for another couple of days. We settled in for a couple of days of working on Mackinac. The next day, the winds were blowing so hard that one of our dock lines actually snapped (during one of my meetings!!). I felt the tug on the boat and yelled for David. We were able to replace the lines and luckily the marina had basically emptied out that morning so we no longer had a neighbour to swing in to. The next two days were also predicted for bad winds, so we ended up on Mackinac for some time!

We decided to head out with the weather window, and aim south, hoping that we’d eventually find someone who could come out and take a look at the engine. Not too long into this journey, we suddenly had the port engine overheat. Back in Canada, David had noticed that one of the belts on this engine was looking pretty worn. As it turns out there are no after-market replacements, and nobody anywhere in Canada had it in stock. David had ordered 6 Yanmar spares to our package holding service in Virgina, and we just needed to get to a place where we’d be able to send a package. The engine had overheated because this belt had snapped and had also dislodged the second belt. David was able to return the first belt to its place and we figured we could keep going on one belt and we’d overnight the belt package to wherever we ended up. However, only a few minutes later the engine reheated again, and this time the other belt had also snapped. This meant we were down to one engine – the problematic one. Meanwhile, I had found a diver in Charlevoix that would be able to come out and see if he could identify or rule out anything wrong with the propeller as the cause of the vibration. We decided we would limp in to Charlevoix on the one engine. David placed the overnight order to our package service to have everything delivered to us the next day. Luckily our friends from Mackinac were also at Charlevoix, and though we pulled in just after sunset when the marina was closed, they came to catch our lines. Our big fat cat is not very maneuverable at low speeds for docking on only one engine!!

The next morning, the diver arrived and discovered that the starboard prop was actually loose with the key that keeps the prop in place having shifted. This meant that until our package arrived with the new belts for the port engine, we were dead in the water, not wanting to put further stress on the starboard prop until we have a chance to get hauled and have everything inspected and fixed.

Unfortunately, that night disaster struck at our package center and they were not able to get the packages out. Thus ensued a 5 day struggle with the service and their lies and delays, calling every few hours to offer them money, beg, plead, anything we could do, to get the package out the door.

By Friday, with the packages still not sent yet, we knew nothing would be arriving over the weekend, and we were resigned to spending the entire weekend and more in Charlevoix. David got a haircut on Saturday and learned from the hairdresser about a local point of interest – the “mushroom houses”. These turned out to be a small street with houses that looked like they came from a fairytale!

We decided for Sunday to take the ferry to nearby Beaver Island to explore. This necessitated staying one night on the island, due to the off-season limited ferry schedule. In the morning, we hopped on the ferry with an overnight bag and our scooters. Our plan for the day would be to scooter around the island and end up at the brewery in town (they do brew on the island!).

About 15 minutes into our scooter ride out of the main street on the northern point of the island, the paved road quickly turned unpaved and was very uncomfortable! We decided to press on, since there wasn’t that much else to do in the town. We did almost the full loop around the island and saw the main attractions including the southern lighthouse, which is in the process of being restored, “the big birch” and “the big rock”. Yes, a big rock is the main attraction :).

By the time we arrived at the brewery, 37 miles of scootering later, I was ready to sit down, after being shaken up on gravel roads for the entire day. Amazingly we didn’t puncture the tires on either of our scooters! The brewmaster also turned out to be the island’s chief librarian and we had a great chat with him. Apparently it is a local activity to get large groups of people together on the Big Rock for a photo. Sometimes after slowly cruising around the island with a picnic table in the back of a truck!

For dinner, we headed to the Beaver Island Lodge for a nice meal. They weren’t quite ready to seat us when we arrived, so we sat at the bar and chatted with our neighbour who turned out to be the proprietor of the new Bodega in town and recommended that we stop there for breakfast in the morning before getting on the ferry. Dinner was lovely and accompanied by a beautiful sunset. The next morning we woke up early to hop on the ferry back to Charlevoix before the Monday work day started.

Late Monday night, we finally got a notice from USPS that our packages were actually being processed, with an estimated delivery date of Thursday (over a week after we put in our overnight delivery order…) At this point we were resigned to our fate with nothing to do but wait in Charlevoix until the packages arrived. As it turned out, they did arrive on Wednesday (while still showing an estimated delivery of Thursday…), but we had one other package on the way (a warranty-replacement solar charge controller to replace our flaky one) that would not arrive until Thursday morning. Wednesday night, David got the new belts on the port engine, and after some basic testing, we declared the engine ready to go as soon as Fedex arrived in the morning to head south to find repairs for the other engine.

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