It’s late August and we find ourselves in Lake Huron’s North Channel. When we ran into some “Loopers” (i.e., cruisers on a route that circles down the rivers of heartland America from Chicago to the Gulf of Mexico, then up the East Coast and back to the Great Lakes via the Erie Canal), I asked them what part of the Great Loop they were most looking forward to. They said the North Channel. Everyone says the North Channel. The North Channel is famous.
I can see why. It’s untouched, especially compared to the rather “resorty” Lake Michigan where each bay had at least five cheap souvenir shops and ten places to buy ice cream. The North Channel is natural. Slightly rugged. Picturesque as a Group of 7 painting. It’s much what I prefer, reminiscent of Lake Superior but way less moody when it comes to weather and waves.
I’m not writing much non-fiction these days (including this blog which is admittedly but unabashedly neglected) as my focus is on a fiction project I am loving!!! The idea hit me while I was in Racine, Wisconsin, and I’m not letting this one go! I’m holding onto this one tight and nurturing it daily so it stays with me. Ideas, after all, are metaphysical and an idea will leave you if neglect it. A neglected idea will find another host who will feed it and love it and nurture it.
Rather than a play-by-play of our journey, I thought I would briefly reflect on some themes of the experience:
*Adjusting to living on a boat took a few weeks, though I’m very comfortable with this lifestyle now. Things that I found initially bothersome, like the sound of the generator, I no longer mind because I see the good side of the annoyance. For example, running the generator means I can charge my laptop! (On that note, it is one of our priorities to install solar!)
*Lake Michigan, overall, felt “touristy”. I expected rugged bays, untouched lands, bushwhacking through dense forest similar to Lake Superior. Lake Michigan is more: ice cream shops, cheap souvenirs, patios with craft beer and wood-oven pizzas. It’s not a bad thing. It’s easy. I found a good local bookstore where I stocked up on young adult fiction (notably: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, The Thing About Jellyfish, and The Sun is Also a Star). I never had to go too far for groceries. But I missed the ruggedness! Lake Huron’s North Channel seems the perfect balance between Michigan’s convenience and Superior’s wildness.
*I was very ill the last half of Lake Michigan with a bad bout of seasickness. I couldn’t get my sea legs. We had some wild weather, and after that, my body responded to the slightest movement with terrible nausea and dizziness. Even on land, it would take a few hours for my motion sickness to go away. Anyone I told this to assumed I was pregnant, because for a woman of a certain age, the differential diagnosis is always pregnancy (see also: “it’s just in your head” or “she’s simply hysteric”). As a hypochondriac, I thought I had Lyme disease. I took seasick meds, which made my head feel funny but abated the nausea until they’d eventually wear out and I’d throw up. My symptoms completely went away when we left Lake Michigan. My body got some time to re-balance while we docked at Drummond Island for a week, and the weather has been quite tame in the North Channel (KNOCK ON WOOD). Thank goodness!
*Dock small talk befuddles me. I’m always so surprised when people don’t shy away from asking blunt questions about how we make our money or how we can afford a boat. Someone asked, “Is that yours or are you just renting?”, which honestly, I guess I thought that would be a rude thing to ask!? Perhaps it’s cultural. Americans tend to be blunter than Canadians. I listened to an old This American Life podcast about Paris, and how one American who moved to Paris loved the fact that no one asked her personal questions there! She said it was years before she learnt her close friend had an adult son. People simply didn’t discuss “what do you do for work?”, “how do you make your money?”, “how many children do you have?”, “are you trying to have children?” and other potentially invasive questions. I think I would like that. I feel very uncomfortable answering strangers’ questions when they are personal in nature.
*I felt a surge of relief throughout my body when we crossed back into Canada. I felt patriotic and so blessed I’m Canadian and that I was born in Canada which is a pretty reasonable and just country, and yes we have our problems, but really we get a lot of stuff right too, and we’re generally polite people and reasonable people and gosh, I hope we can save liberal democracy and the planet and not fall victim to the autocratic populism sweeping the world.
*I have some upcoming publications appearing in boating magazines! Stay tuned… the publishing world moves slow.
Well, off to other adventures now! If you are interested in following day-to-day life on the boat, might I suggest you follow me on Instagram @tinapetrick which is much more frequently updated then this blog.