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Sunday, July 6, in Ludington, Michigan

Hi all and happy Fourth weekend. We’re in Ludington, Michigan, back on the eastern side of Lake Michigan. Last week, we were in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

Art expected that he’d spend the whole season sorting out the eccentricities of this new-to-us boat, and his own education about keeping it up to his exacting standard. So far, he’s been busy, and the objects of his attention are becoming less mission-critical and more mission-accomplished.

In Manitowoc, a very capable electronics technician (and, as it turned out, proficient ukulele player) fixed our errant freezer wiring, assuaging our fears that we’d lose the ice cream without warning. He also investigated and found the culprit for a blinking breaker serving the electrical outlets in the main salon. The alert was triggered by the TV in the aft cabin, and probably will result in the replacement of the television that came with the boat. He helped Art understand, if not resolve, the obstinate Furuno chart plotter, which still refused to change to the backup GPS on demand, and he reorganized the wiring behind the understandably complicated flybridge dashboard so that it can be rolled under to stow the instruments.

Art picked a calm, clear morning for us to cross the lake back to Michigan. The destination he picked was south of the SS Badger Manitowoc-to-Ludington route, partly to stay out of its way, and partly to avoid being on the west end of an eastbound coal-fired vessel, to paraphrase a bit. It was a three-hour traverse at a reasonably high speed. The trip was uneventful, although it was punctuated frequently by an alarm coming from the chart plotter, fretting about its inability to find a WAAS adjustment signal that it liked. WAAS is an acronym for a satellite and ground station system that corrects the boat’s GPS signal. Art’s eventual temporary workaround was to turn off the alarm. The WAAS adjustment would only result in an improvement of a few yards, and we could do that on our own, using our non-electronic eyes. Our plan was to visit Pentwater, a small resort village.

It’s possible that Pentwater got its name from the pent-up water that formed its lake, or from its native people, or from the confluence of five bodies of water (which requires both imagination and a knowledge of Greek to believe). It’s claimed that in Pentwater it was possible to see smoke from the Great Chicago Fire. It’s nearly certain that Pentwater must have played some part in Chicago’s restoration. The lumber baron Charles Mears built its channel and placed his sawmill there in 1855. He built a 660-foot long pier out into Lake Michigan to allow for the transport of lumber from Pentwater to Chicago.

In fact, in a span of 25 years, Mears would purchase about 40,000 acres in Michigan, construct and operate 15 mills, and build five harbors. He was known as the “Christopher Columbus of the West Coast” (this particular west coast no doubt the west coast of Michigan.)

The ferry from one side of the river to the other operated from 1858 to 1926, and cost five cents for a person, ten for a man with a horse, 25 cents with a team and wagon, and two cents each for cattle, sheep, and pigs. The ferry was replaced by a bridge, which has since been removed.

We arrived in early afternoon and picked out a place to anchor at the end of the small lake. This was our first time anchoring out on this boat, and the process went as smoothly as we might have hoped. We had replaced the original CQR anchor with a sleek stainless anchor called Quickline that reminded us of the Rocna anchor we’d liked so much on Second Wind. The new anchor nestles snugly into the bowsprit when it isn’t in use, and it dug quickly and firmly into the black clay-like mud of the lake.

This was also our first opportunity to take the dinghy out from its cradle and use it to get ashore. Though this process has numerous steps (we leave it covered when it isn’t in use), the crane worked well, and we launched the boat without any physical effort.

The town of Pentwater has a designated dinghy dock, and we tied up and wandered ashore. We’d missed some of the July 3 celebration, such as the pie-eating contest (notable quote from both winners to the newspaper: “I’m not going to be eating pie again for a while”).

But the pie part of the day wasn’t over. Lots of pies were being sold at above-retail prices to create a local scholarship fund. A pie auction was underway for the most desired entries, and we’d arrived in time for that. There was a real auctioneer, and he spoke faster than even we do. His voice fluctuated from a monotone to a melody, and he inserted nonsense phrases into the rhythms. It was like listening to scat jazz singing.

Then it was time to explore the town, a brief stroll down the main street. The short downtown was lined with colorful shops for resort clothes, restaurants with outdoor dining, and a shop that sold marine paraphernalia, whether it was brass novelties, boat-themed souvenirs, and actual marine supplies. Art picked up some very large cable ties there. I noted that this was the first marine shop I’d ever visited where the background music was classical.

We stayed aboard in the evening, and I experienced the activation of small print conditions in my unlimited wireless data plan, whose contractual relationships with domestic providers limit me to 50 megabytes of “roaming” inside the US. I knew that T-Mobile used AT&T towers in places where they had no facilities of their own. I didn’t know that AT&T put each user on a budget.

International roaming is really unlimited, even though there isn’t a single international carrier that offers unlimited service to its own customers, as far as I’ve seen in the many places we’ve bought phone service. Apparently I can watch videos without charge to my heart’s content while I’m roaming in Paris, or Africa, but if I’m out of T-Mobile’s range in the US, my entire month’s coverage is limited to the size of a few good photographs. I was a week from the end of the month and destined to travel outside of T-Mobile coverage for the rest of the season. They warned me via text message that I was running out of data, unlimited or not.

Late in the evening, I talked to T-Mobile tech support and they explained my situation (which eventually made sense to me, though I’m loath to admit that.) They told me that I had 10 megabytes left and then I’d be without data service for the next week. I was upset, but there was nothing to do about it but go to bed. I can use up 10 megs in my sleep. And I did. When I woke up, my data service was over. (Art’s ran out a few days later.) Luckily, we carry around a Verizon alternative for just this eventuality.

On the plus side, that morning there was a picturesque scene unfolding outside of the boat as we floated at anchor on the lake. Fog was wafting across the water in the kind of loveliness that would move someone to poetry or an artist to the easel. We dawdled in the serene and lazy morning, and finally brought up the anchor and moved on to Ludington.

The first European that settled this area was the French Jesuit missionary and explorer Father Jacques Marquette, with the French-Canadian explorer Louis Jolliet. Pere Marquette died in Ludington in 1675 and they’ve got a shrine remembering him. Later, in the nineteenth century, the first permanent settlement was used for trapping and fishing. The area was later settled by lumber barons such as James Ludington, its namesake.

The trip was short and easy, and we fueled up before heading to our assigned slip in Ludington Municipal Marina. After settling in, we headed to town for lunch, and discovered that we were just in time for the Fourth of July parade down the main street. Crowds had already gathered; in fact, spectators were five or six deep for as far as we could see in both directions on both sides of the street. This was a treat for us; not only have we never seen a Fourth of July parade, we haven’t been in a place where the holiday is even celebrated for most of the last fifteen years (you can find a turkey dinner in the UK at Thanksgiving, but apparently they still haven’t gotten over the independence thing. Even if they celebrated that date, they’d probably just call it “bank holiday” anyway.)

The Ludington parade began with a cannon, and then the high school band, and its affiliated dancers and cheerleaders, came thundering, thundering all along the way. (It’s not my fault I keep thinking about “76 Trombones” when all the bands play that song on July 4th.) There were floats honoring veterans, floats sponsored by local businesses, a caravan of old cars, and another caravan of old farm tractors, and gymnastics teams and tae kwon do groups. By far the biggest cheers came to the Spartan mascot from Michigan State University. The parade ended with the talented and hilariously-clad Clown Band from nearby Scottville, about an hour and a half after it began.

Most of the shops on the main street were open, and we wandered up one side and down the other. Downtown Ludington sprawls along for about a half mile. Like so many other towns we’ve seen around the lake, the stores that were once the shopping outlets for the residents have moved a few miles inland to the highway. The residual shops on the main road have needed to transform to meet the desires of the tourist population during the summer. Pentwater had preppy clothes and coffee shops. In Ludington, the shops included restaurants, jewelry shops, and many places to buy stenciled tee shirts and beach paraphernalia. There’s an ice cream parlor that has a long line for entry no matter what time of day or night you wander by.

Ludington is the county seat of Mason County and is the eastern port for the SS Badger whose route we’d carefully avoided on our own crossing days earlier. Watching the Badger come into port is one of the top attractions of the town.

July 4th is the only night that the Badger doesn’t go back to Wisconsin. Instead, they take passengers out into the harbor to watch the fireworks. We didn’t put a lot of thought into where we’d be for the fireworks, partly because we knew that every town would have something to watch. But Ludington’s fireworks display was exceptional. It didn’t start until about 10:30, when it finally got dark enough at this western edge of Eastern Daylight Time. It went on for quite a long time, with a tableau that competed with the one we’d just seen live on television in Washington, DC.

Well, at least we’re finally caught up. We expect to move on sometime tomorrow. Hope you had a red, white and blue weekend, filled with sparkle and cake.

Love, Karen (and Art)