Fifth in a Series
On our recent “Magical Lake Michigan” cruise aboard Blount Small Ship Adventures‘ 88-passenger ship Grande Mariner, we started in Illinois (Chicago), sailed to Michigan, made three stops (Holland, Beaver Island and Mackinac Island), and now were headed to Wisconsin.
The world’s fifth largest lake, Lake Michigan borders parts of four U.S. states — Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana — and only Indiana is not included on the itinerary.
Lake Michigan is the only one of the five Great Lakes not to share its waters with the province of Ontario, Canada. That made it ideal for some of the American passengers who didn’t own passports. (Though as an aside I would encourage everyone to get one; for example, to take an Alaska Inside Passage cruise you need a passport to pass through Canada. And you never know when you’ll get the urge to fly off to some exotic port.)
Reaching Wisconsin would represent our third time change of the trip. Driving to Chicago from New York state, we gained an hour, then lost it when we sailed from Illinois to Michigan, and gained it back again when we docked in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.
Remarkably, everyone showed up to breakfast on time, though a number may have gotten up earlier than usual, to be treated to water as smooth as glass as we approached Sturgeon Bay. It’s Door County, Wisconsin’s “premier city,” according to the Sturgeon Bay visitor’s guide, but it’s a pretty sleepy place.
My wife, Catharine, and I could (and probably should) have opted for the bus tour of scenic Door County offered by the ship, but we wanted to check out the Door County Maritime Museum in Sturgeon Bay, which was free to ship passengers.
Situated on the waterfront, the museum has some nice displays of local maritime history, model boats, and profiles of various seafarers and shipbuilders in the area, but our favorite exhibit was called Sea Dogs — which was about real dogs who have gone to sea.
We loved a 1946-vintage film about a mixed-breed Sea Dog named Sinbad, who proved to be a hero with the Coast Guard aboard a ship during World War II and was decorated and celebrated accordingly. Sinbad acquired the rank of K9C or “Chief Dog” before passing on at the age of 14.
At the gift shop, I bought a Great Lakes decal with the slogan: “Unsalted. No sharks.” You can also find a variation of this on T-shirts: “No salt. No sharks. No worries.”
(The Great Lakes hold a fifth of the fresh water in the entire world, and, perhaps needless to say at this point, are shark free — a big plus if you plan to swim.)
While we had a scheduled stop later that day in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, the ship’s captain — David — a veteran skipper who had 20 years’ experience on Blount ships, decided we should skip it due to impending bad weather in the area.
Instead, we headed south straight to Milwaukee, which we reached the next morning rather than the next afternoon.
That proved to be a good thing. Milwaukee was like a mini-Chicago, with a long River Walk leading through the heart of the city and for miles north of that. Like Chicago, Milwaukee also has a long Lake Michigan coastline lined with beaches.
Besides several miles of River Walk, Catharine and I explored the Historic Third Ward, where we wandered through the Public Market– brimming with beautiful seafood, brats, and cheeses — and past a variety of new restaurants and pubs that have won the area the moniker of Milwaukee’s Soho.
We were fortunate enough to have friends in Milwaukee who showed us around the city that afternoon. A highlight was ending up in an outdoor German-style beer garden for pints of lager and bites of a giant pretzel dipped in mustard and cheese sauces.
It seemed like the quintessential Milwaukee experience — after all, this is the city that gave us Schlitz, Blatz, Pabst and Miller beers — and, of course, you can’t leave Wisconsin without eating cheese.
Next up: Back to Chicago, and Wrapping Up the Cruise
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