Follow MV Northern Exposure on  Follow MV Northern Exposure on Twitter or  Instagram @NorthrnExpo

We'll post whenever the website changes.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015, in Sister Bay, Wisconsin

Hi. Our nephew Gregg has been with us for the past week, and I’ll just use that as the excuse for missing Sunday for sending a note to you. This letter still won’t catch us up, but we’re gaining on the calendar, for sure. In my last update, we had just arrived in Sturgeon Bay, a medium-sized city in the bay called Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Summer was teasing me. Our short trip from Sister Bay to Sturgeon Bay never required me to put on so much as a fleece. Granted, we were inside a small bay and not crossing the mighty Lake Michigan as we’d done a few days before. But the sun was out and the air was clear.

Sturgeon Bay is well-protected by a channel that bisects Green Bay’s eastern peninsula. Two bridges open fifteen minutes apart, and Art thought that we could fit under the second one with our 22 foot or so height. But I didn’t like the indicator on the bridge that said that there was something like 23 feet of clearance, so we waited along with two sailboats for the opening of that bridge as well.

We were warmly greeted by Tom of Bay Marine, with whom Art had discussed our growing list of tasks. We tied up at the fuel dock. Tom handled both our arrival a week early and Art’s to-do list, even though they were obviously swamped with clients who had given them a clearer list of their needs.

They rose to the occasion, though, and for the rest of the business week the boat was torn apart in search of the elusive leak, with one of the large storage cabinets in the galley emptied. The leak seemed to be found and claimed to be repaired, but without success. The next culprit was determined to be a hose from our European washer/dryer for which a replacement wouldn’t be available until after the weekend. After all those seasons of traveling from one metric country to another, it’s hard to comprehend that our country is trailing the technology of Syria and Cyprus in something as simple as a water hose. The yard also took on a few of our less-urgent tasks, and that freed us to implement some upgrades of our own.

We’d been watching satellite TV, certainly an exponential improvement above the over-the-air television available to us on our last boat, in Greece, Italy, and even Malta. But our setup still only let us see whatever was on at the time we were watching, and we were developing skills in lip-syncing The Big Bang Theory.

Another problem in comfort rather than enjoyment was that the single satellite feeds two TVs, one in the main cabin and one in our aft cabin, but the only way to change the channel or view the program grid is to use the remote in the main salon. On a really cold morning, the idea of strolling around in the main cabin’s chill au naturel in a viewable marina is less appealing than you might think. The solution is an infrared radio remote, which happens to come with the DVR offered by our satellite provider, and that we were assured was compatible with our boat.

Alas, Art experienced one of these customer service calls that lasted for an hour, visited three different departments, and was disconnected accidentally by someone trying to put him on hold. Frustrated, we turned to the provider’s website. A local electronics store in Sturgeon Bay was listed as an installer. That, plus several other errands, convinced Art that we should rent a car, and we did.

The rental car place was at a motel about a mile away, and one of the yard’s workers dropped us off. We’d already borrowed a car once from the service manager, and it was clear that he’d lend us his car whenever we needed it. But we knew that the rental car idea would provide us with freedom, and we could keep it through the weekend.

Our first stop was the electronics dealer in a furniture store in a strip mall. I loved the idea that a store filled with upholstered lounge chairs would sell you a satellite TV system to go with them. I think they sold bulk cheese snacks in the corner. The salespeople there asked some provocative questions and we realized that the DVR that we wanted would not work with the marine satellite that is mounted aboard. But they helped us design a configuration with an external hard drive and a radio remote that would meet our needs. He sold us the remote and we were off to the nearby Walmart and then Target, where we got the drive.

Then we drove to the city of Green Bay, located at the southern end of the bay of Green Bay. It’s the closest town with an AT&T store to activate the service we use ashore and at sea (T-Mobile, are you listening? We get better service in Canada than we do in Michigan or Wisconsin…)

We saw a movie at the suburban mall. On the weekend, we drove around the peninsula to scout out new harbors, first, Egg Harbor and Fish Creek on Saturday, and Baileys Harbor on Sunday.

Finally, it looked like summer. The weather was sunny and mild, and the vacation towns were filled with people. Parking in the little towns was hard to find. In fact, we were having trouble reserving marina berths for two weeks in the future. Days were already getting shorter, but summer had arrived.

Our stay at the boatyard lasted longer than we expected. The leak was elusive, and then the solution required us to wait for that part to be delivered to this remote peninsula. The yard was busy, but they were always attentive, and always capable.

The service manager lent us a Mastervolt device that we’d once acquired (somewhat ruthlessly) to calibrate the battery charger on our sailboat. It’s something that the manufacturer uses and it isn’t normally available to customers. We’d left the sailboat’s device with the new owner, and we had no means to get another one. Art is as sensitive as the device is to fluctuations in power output, and having this calibration reduces his perpetual anxiety about our battery situation. There’s no need to own the device, just to use it, so we gave it back when we were finished.

Between leak-related assignments, several more items were scratched from the repair list, even some which showed up while we were sitting there, like the handle on the side door, which inexplicably and suddenly flopped. The leak was finally gone, and we had no reason to stay on the fuel dock that had housed us for a week.

We kept putting off any real trips across the bridge to the main part of Sturgeon Bay, until we moved to an actual marina and decided to start exploring. The main street in town is a little old-fashioned, but the town has made a real effort to retain downtown shopping and dining. I’d been eying a certain restaurant in town for lunch, and we hadn’t yet crossed the bridge to try it out; it didn’t disappoint. Like the painted goat-shaped placards that adorn Sister Bay, sturgeon sculptures, to scale and decorated by supporting businesses, are propped up all along the main street. They’re clever and fanciful. One sturgeon outside a wine bar is covered in corks. Another has a piano with working keys carved out of its belly. The street itself sports a real, and large, hardware store, a well-stocked cooking shop, and two department stores that would give Walmart a run for its money for the value shopper.

The marina had held a “boat show”, probably just a brokerage event for the marina owner, and the docks began to empty out a bit after we arrived. Until the holiday weekend, there were few other boaters around, but finally, people started to show up. Some boats even left to go cruising. All of this reminded us of the docks on the Chesapeake Bay we used before we moved to Florida many years ago. Of the boats that resided there, on a given weekend, only about a third of the owners would even come down, and of these, only a few would actually detach from the dock. Many people just use their boats as a second home. But on the actual July 4 day, the marina was about half-empty and even the docks and boaters’ lounge were busy.

The day of the holiday, July 4, had a second Independence meaning for me: it was the first day of the season that I wore shorts because I had to and not simply because I could. This time I was pretty sure that the good weather would last. But we were a little too optimistic about the evening’s temperature. We’d walked along the bay to the municipal park hosting the event and the fireworks, carrying our portable chairs like everyone else. We sat and listened to music while partaking of surprisingly robust burgers from the Fireman’s Association or whatever local group was cooking. But by 7:30, we were both pretty chilled, still wearing shorts (unlike most of the locals), and we knew that it was a long, cold slog to dusk in about an hour and a half. So we celebrated the rest of the holiday on the boat.

I’ll pause here and try really hard to send another update on Sunday. In the meantime, have a happy Bastille Day!

Love, Karen (and Art)