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Island Time: Lake Michigan Page 2

Every time my wife Jennifer and I sail to the Beaver Islands, something goes wrong. So why do we keep going there? Initially it was because of where they are, but now it's because of what they are.First, the "where" part. The Beavers are a dozen islands in northern Lake Michigan, 30 miles from Michigan sailing centers like Mackinac Island, Harbor Springs and Charlevoix. To the west, it's a

More recently, Jennifer and I brought our new boat, Catamount, a Caliber 38, to the Beavers for a longer and hopefully more uneventful stay. We enjoyed a sunset beat between Beaver and High Islands, then turned east to power up the narrow channel north of Beaver. But the leprechauns struck again and Catamount's motor died.

In as black a night as one can have at sea, we tacked fourteen times up the channel, then ran down to the St. James harbor entrance and tacked thrice more to drop the hook at 2230. The next day it was 1-800-CALL-ADAM again. This time it was totally my fault (note to self: change the fuel filter on schedule).

With Catamount anchored securely in the harbor, we rented a car and spent several days exploring back roads. Towering sand dunes, sparkling interior lakes, expansive golden beaches and a restored lighthouse at Beaver Head were just some of the sights that made exploring the island's interior worthwhile. We finished one day with dinner on the patio at Beaver Island Lodge, enjoying a sunset view over the open lake; on another night we lingered in the cockpit as a wedding party celebrated on shore with fireworks. On the last day McDonough's refilled our propane tanks, stocked our larder with fresh corn and cherries and delivered it all to our boat. We felt like locals.

The Beavers had cast their spell. The island folk had saved us, the history had enthralled us and McDonough's had fed us. Now we go to the Beaver Islands for the what, not just the where. But we call ahead to make sure Adam is around, just in case.

Cruise Notes

RESOURCES: Lakeland Boating Ports O'Call Lake Michigan Cruising Guide (O'Meara-Brown Publications Inc) has a good section on the Beavers, including aerial photos and copious island information, as well as information on mainland ports and anchorages on both the Michigan and Wisconsin shores.

DESTINATIONS: Anchoring in St. James Harbor is the norm, but the Beaver Island Municipal Marina (www.beaverisland.org/municipal-dock) in the middle of town has been fully renovated. Beaver Island Marina (www.beaverislandmarina.com) is smaller, but is adjacent to McDonough's Market and is where Adam lives. For the full Beaver Island experience, in settled weather try overnighting at High, Garden, or Hog Islands.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE: Rent a GeoTracker from Beaver Island Marina and explore back roads. Provision at McDonough's

Market or grab an espresso at Dalwhinnie Bakery. Rent a kayak or take lessons from Inland Seas Kayaking (www.inlandseaskayaking.com). If you're there in mid-July, kick back at the Beaver Island Music Festival (www. bimf.net).

TRANSPORTATION: The Beavers are a great place to change crews. Daily ferry service (www.beaverislandboatcompany.com) and air service (www.freshairaviation.net) connect the island with nearby Charlevoix, MI.

WHEN TO GO: June to September are the best months, but if you're hardy, check out the fall foliage in early October.

WEATHER: Prevailing winds are southwest to west and usually die down at night. Look out for thunderstorms rolling in from the west in the late afternoon. The Beavers are a NOAA black hole; getting accurate weather forecasts requires some patience and work.

CHARTERING: Bay Breeze Yacht Charters (www.bbyc.com) in Traverse City, MI, 60 miles to the south has a sizeable charter fleet. There are several good marinas between Traverse City and the Beavers, making it an ideal spot to start your exploration of northern Lake Michigan.

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