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Sunday, July 5, 2015, still in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

Hi all. Well, this time I’ll catch up to our arrival in Sturgeon Bay, if not our stay here. Last time I wrote, we’d just arrived in town, but according to the journal, we hadn’t yet left Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario.

We left the Canadian Sault Ste. Marie and crossed the canal to the US Sault Ste. Marie. While we fueled up, the US Customs agent met us and completed all the formalities to let us back into our country. It only took a few minutes and we were almost set to go. Our other errand at the fuel dock was to bring our new convection microwave onboard. Amazon had courteously delivered it to the marina where we stopped only for fuel. The box in which the oven was packaged was about a centimeter too wide to bring it inside either of the doors while still boxed up. It did fit without the oven in it, so we brought the box in, then the naked 60-pound oven, and then we pieced it back together inside the box for travel until we could install it.

Our trip took us to DeTour, Michigan. Locals all seemed to pronounce it Dee-tour, as if nobody ever went there intentionally but were redirected to it from the place they had really wanted to visit. I was a little wary.

Like most of the places we’d been, there isn’t much to DeTour Village, and there weren’t many boats in the marina. Of the half dozen docked there, only about one or two besides ours were occupied. We spent the afternoon of one day there and all of another day.

When we’d arrived at the marina at mid-day, I expected we’d go to lunch at the restaurant a few doors away, the one that was listed in the cruising guide as the obvious place to eat. The people signing us in at the marina said that since it was Wednesday, the Mainsail Restaurant was closed. But we walked by it on Thursday and it was closed then too.

The weather was by turns lovely or cold or rainy or threatening. You couldn’t get stuck too far from the boat in bad weather in a small place like this. Also, there were limits on how often you even bothered to go into town. Every other building was closed or for sale, or the business inside the building was for sale.

We shopped in a supermarket under its big sale sign. The large waterfront cabin resort next door to the marina had a for-sale sign. We decided to go out for coffee at the coffee place in mid-morning, but it was shut tight. We visited a luncheonette instead, and overheard the owner turn away a salesman trying to sell advertising by telling the sales rep that the building she occupied was for sale, that her lease was almost up, and that she didn’t think she’d renew. We walked along the main road and saw sale sign after sale sign on the residential houses too.

Art remained dumbfounded that the tourist season hadn’t seemed to be in force anywhere we’d visited yet. Sure, ferries had dumped hundreds of day-trippers onto Mackinac Island while we were there on our way to Canada, but the marina even in Mackinac Island was barely occupied, and no other marina was even one-quarter full. Everyone kept assuring us that we’d be grateful to find space as soon as summer starts, but summer apparently didn’t start in the first half of June.

The next leg of our itinerary took us back towards Lake Michigan, just stopping short of it to the harbor at St. Ignace. The town sits at the southernmost point of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, with a population of about 2500.

French explorer and priest Jacques Marquette founded the St. Ignace Mission in 1671, and he’s buried in town. The natives of his day traveled around the area on birch bark canoes which were ideal for the terrain and their economy. You could navigate streams only a few inches deep or lakes through dense forests and steer with the flick of a hand. Where there was no water, the canoes were so light that portage (walking them across land) was no problem, yet the craft was strong enough to fill with a ton of fur or other goods and take them to market.

In those days, the Jesuits weren’t willing to perform marriage ceremonies between European men and Native American women, but they got married anyway without a priest. Those were called “country weddings”, a familiar idea to someone who’s seen a lot of Westerns.

According to native tradition, a man could marry a woman and all of her sisters, and he might particularly want to do so, because it was the woman who owned all of the land, crops, and trade routes. He’d better behave, though.

After all, European women could not divorce and they could be executed for having a baby out of wedlock. But the native women could effectuate a divorce simply by putting her husband’s possessions out into the front yard, a familiar idea to someone who’s seen a lot of romantic comedies.

We’d hauled our new microwave convection oven to one harbor and hadn’t installed it, mostly because I wanted to wait for professional help. But I was tiring of using the temporary, less-capable oven, tired of dragging it out of its protective, travel-ready box and putting it back into safety between ports (okay, Art did that, but I was tired of watching him do it) and tired of having two ovens and/or their boxes lying around under the dining table in the main salon. On a boat, when one or two things are out of place, everything looks crowded and messy.

I sucked up my anxiety and told Art that it would be okay if he pulled off the oven cavity’s wood trim, pulled out the old oven, and replaced it with the new one. He did it with no trouble, and we had a fitted, working oven again. I’d been hiding in the aft cabin with my eyes closed and my hands over my ears. It’s possible I overreacted.

In my research preceding my purchase of the replacement oven, I saw a consumer magazine’s review of this oven, and they listed, as a “con”, that most people who owned this device don’t use most of its capabilities. They might as well have put my name there. I’m an adventurous cook, and that realization bristled. So I cuddled up with the cookbook that came with the oven (my second copy of it, now) and determined to broil, roast, and microwave/convect.

Arriving at noon in many places means that we dock and get secured in the slip, stop in the office and register, and then venture somewhere nearby for lunch. In St. Ignace, we probably would have liked the meal better if the sandwich that arrived was the one we’d ordered (we both had wanted the same item and gotten the same mistaken item). I didn’t have the courage to complain, and by the time our meal arrived, Art’s appetite didn’t have the patience. After lunch, we walked along the main street.

St. Ignace is one of the places that sends ferries to Mackinac Island all summer, and thus it is a place you’d leave your car. So it didn’t surprise us that the shopping street near the ferry dock is disproportionately represented by fudge shops and souvenir stands. It was a surprise that so many of the shops were empty or closed on a Friday afternoon. It was a big surprise that the supermarket right downtown, with its generous parking lot and generous size, was out of business.

The signature event in St. Ignace is an auto show on the last weekend of June, and though we would be long gone, we did get to see the weekend antique car display spread across the marina’s parking lot. It still wasn’t warm enough to peel off a fleece in the daytime or my padded vest in the evening. I concluded that we were just slightly north of summer.

After a close review of the weather, Art set our course for Sister Bay inside Green Bay (the bay, not the city) in Wisconsin. The day began as a pleasant crossing, but the fog rolled in and the cold water chilled the air around us. We huddled at the inside steering station for about half of the 120-mile trip, and were more than ready to be tucked into the Sister Bay municipal marina.

It was a scene like the black and white to color moment in the Wizard of Oz. Once we were in the protection of land, the fog disappeared, the gray sky became blue. Summer had been hiding in Wisconsin.

“No,” stated the dockhand who was taking my lines. “This morning, the fog was so thick you couldn’t see in front of you.” But the panorama of colorful, well-kept buildings around me, and the warmth in the air prompted Art to hose down the boat of the carpet of dead bugs we’d acquired. And it prompted me to put on a pair of shorts, which I’d been able to wear only once before during the season in a similar situation, a temporary moment of sunshine and warmth that might or might not last through another day.

It didn’t. The morning brought gray skies and an ugly imminent radar picture, and the afternoon brought rain and wind and chill. We’d gone out for coffee in the morning and lunch at noon, always trying to stay one step ahead of the black clouds. In the afternoon, we huddled onboard. But again the rain cleared up and the day was just as balmy as when we arrived.

Rain or shine, Sister Bay is already family. It’s a small tourist town with a main street that is partly just cute and partly self-mocking. There’s a Swedish restaurant in town that began in 1949. The owner renovated the exterior with Norwegian wooden logs, and added a sod roof. Someone gave him a goat as a laugh, so he simply placed the goat on the roof, and it created a niche for the restaurant and the town. There’s even a webcam.

The rain in the morning didn’t keep us from going out for lunch, although we kept the walking radius to a minimum. The closest place was indeed Al Johnson’s Swedish restaurant, so we got to experience the restaurant firsthand.

The large menu contains a few items that are definitely Swedish, some that are arguably Swedish, and many that are American. The servers were all female, and they wore country dirndls that I didn’t think were necessarily Swedish, and clogs, which I’ve certainly never seen anywhere but the Netherlands. But I guess the waitresses wouldn’t be nearly as endearing clad instead in tee shirts from Ikea.

We each ordered something we’d never seen outside of Sweden, pytt y panna, a beef and potato hash that’s covered with a fried egg. This dish is less an adventure and more, well, just breakfast, but we managed to take home enough that it provided us with most of another meal a day later.

Any time you walk by the place in daylight, someone is taking a photo of the various goats on the restaurant’s roof. But there are goat-shaped placards adorning most of the downtown businesses, and these signs are painted to advertise the business, or the town, or simply to provide a kaleidoscope to look at while you’re strolling around the town.

This is Wisconsin, after all, so the milk that goats provide can’t be overlooked. The cheesemaker/ice cream shop doesn’t bother with the wooden sign. They have models of goats in the window, baby goats in a cage out front, and goat milk as the main ingredient in their homemade cheeses and creamy gelato. Naturally, this was a starting point for our culinary research, which we found we needed to test again and again.

The location of our berth gave us a direct view of the sunset over the seawall and over the heads of local sunset watchers on the dock. We even ate our dinner outdoors, on the flybridge, a first for the season.

We’ll stay in Green Bay for at least the next week or more. Hope your weekend was full of independence.

Love, Karen (and Art)