Dick and Gayl's Cruising Adventures

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August 26-28 Arcadia to Manistee
19.3 miles
We got an early start, cruised calm waters along dune-lined shores, and were all tied up at the Manistee Municipal Marina before 11.  The marina lies along the Manistee River, which connects Lake Michigan with Manistee Lake. It is right in the middle of Downtown Manistee, a vibrant area with beautifully preserved buildings that date to the late 1800s housing shops and restaurants that serve 6,000 locals, as well as tourists.


The town runs trolley tours at 11, 12, and 1 on weekdays only, so we grabbed lunch and hopped on the trolley soon after we tied up at the marina.  The tour was very informative, and gave us a good grounding for planning the rest of our time in town. 
We learned that Manistee means "Winds Whispering Through the Pines," and, like so many other towns we have visited up north, the town's early growth was built on the pines that surrounded it.  At one time in the 1880s, Manistee had more millionaires, more mansions, and more saloons per capita than anywhere in the world. 
Lake Manistee had twenty sawmills surrounding it, and logs from many different lumber companies would flow into the lake, their ends branded with the symbols of the company who cut them.  Shady lumberjacks could make extra money by cutting the ends off logs branded by competitors and putting their employer's brand on the logs.  The cut-off ends were called logger's dollars.
In 1881 there were 18 shingle mills in Manistee, with production exceeding 600 million shingles per year, which probably made it the leading shingle manufacturing center in the world at the time. 
Manistee had a fire that burned 90% of the town on October 8, 1871, the same day as the Chicago Fire.  The town was rebuilt with brick buildings, and it prospered as its sawmills supplied material to rebuild Chicago and other towns along the lake shore that experienced fires during that dry summer.
Salt beds were discovered here in 1881, and a Morton Salt facility operates here to this day.  Today, the largest employer is a nearby casino, and the second largest is a penitentiary.
After our bus tour, we wandered the town, and stopped in the library to use their wi-fi network. We are still too far from true civilization for our Verizon card to pick up a signal. 
When dinnertime rolled around, we decided to go to the Elks Lodge for Friday Fish Fry, the best deal in town.  We sat on their patio overlooking the river, and enjoyed our generous portion fish fry topped off with desserts from the Elks' home kitchens.
We were in Manistee during a fishing tournament weekend, and were amazed at the dedication of the fishermen (and 99% of those we saw were men).  We heard their boats passing starting at 4:30 in the morning, continuing all day and into the evening -- until 11:30, at least.  Saturday was rainy to start, and so rough we wouldn't think of leaving the dock, but the fishing boats were bobbing about undeterred by weather or  whitecaps.
A mile and a half boardwalk with historical plaques curating points of historic interest runs along the shore of the Manistee River to Lake Michigan.  We walked the boardwalk, found several nearby geocaches, and read all the historic plaques along the way, stopping to watch anglers displaying and cleaning their fish.
The public beach at Manistee is clean, beautiful, and shallow for a long way out.
On Sunday, we went to church at the First Congregational United Church of Christ. It was designed in 1887 by Chicago architect and "Father of the Skyscraper" William LeBaron Jenney, and built over the next five years. The church was originally built with many lightly etched clear glass windows, but 43 stained glass windows gradually replaced them, added after the church's completion as memorials.  Two large windows were designed and constructed in the studios of Louis Comfort Tiffany.  Two were from the Michigan Building of the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. 

Tiffany Window

The service even had a bit of a nautical theme -- the lesson was the story of Moses in the Bullrushes.  After the minister told the kids the story, and sent them off to their religious education classrooms, Dick leaned over to me and whispered, "So kids, if your mother takes up basket weaving, start worrying."  Moses in the Bullrushes is to kids' stories as "Rockabye Baby" is to lullabyes. 
The sermon was also based on the story, with a message about making choices between staying on the land where you are stuck, or making a leap of faith into the water where there is more uncertainty, but also more possibility.  We found some meaning in it.
What a wonderful town!  We just loved our time here. But, we were anxious to move on, and by Sunday afternoon the waves seemed to have softened up a bit -- at least the whitecaps disappeared.  So, knowing we could turn around and come right back to our spots if things didn't work out on the big water, Summertime and Starsong set out for Ludington (about 22 miles away) at 2 p.m., probably our latest departure time for a cruising day ever.