Riding A “Cable” Ferry at Lake Charlevoix

Our road trip a few weeks ago took us up M-22 and M-119 through Charlevoix and Petoskey and on up to the Mackinac Bridge and across to St. Ignace.  On our way back down into the Lower Peninsula, we needed to head to Kalkaska on M-66 to visit my parents grave.

This return trip took us to a delightful little Village of Ironton where there is a ferry that crosses the “narrows” of Lake Charlevoix giving riders a shortcut from Boyne City to Charlevoix.

As we had already spent a thoroughly enjoyable time in Charlevoix the previous night, we instead crossed on the ferry and headed south on M-66 to Kalkaska.

To get a better look at the area and be able to zoom in or out, click on this interactive map link

 I thought the ferry was so cool.  A ferry boat has been crossing this narrows since 1883, with this present vessel being placed into service in 1925.  On most boats, ferry or otherwise, the captain (or pilot) not only controls the engine speed and direction, but also steers the boat by use of a rudder and/or bow thruster engines/props.

With this ferry however, the craft is “driven” by propellers on each end (from one small diesel motor that runs in both directions) but the direction that the boat travels is guided along by a 3/4″ diameter steel cable that is secured at the ferry dock at each end.  There is no steering and there is no rudder.

Back in the “old days” the passengers provided the power by pulling the boat along using hand-over-hand power on the cable.

“How do boats navigate the narrows” you ask?  There is enough slack in the cable so that it is only above the surface of the water at each end and at the ferry boat itself.  Otherwise the cable drops to a depth of about 25′ so that other watercraft can safely navigate.

The Ironton Ferry Boat

Looking Across The Narrows of Lake Charlevoix at Ironton
Waiting In Line to Board
The Ferry Rate Chart
The Ferry Has Departed
Placard Detailing The History of The Ferry

We are continually amazed and delighted at the opportunities that this workamping lifestyle affords us.  Although we were both born and raised in Michigan, we continue to be pleasantly surprised with all that this beautiful Water-Winter-Wonderland has to offer.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Workampers Northwest Michigan Road Trip

One of the nice advantages of the workamping lifestyle is that we work (at the RV park) part time in exchange for our site and utilities.  “Part Time” is key for two reasons.  First, we’ve worked full-time for forty years or so and don’t want to do that any longer … after all, we are “retired” in that we quit working full time, started collecting our Social Security and pensions earlier than most (at a reduced rate) so that we could change our lifestyle and explore this great country of ours.

Secondly, working part time allows us a few days a week to hit the road and explore what’s around us.  If you’ve been following the blog, you’ve seen; the beach and state park at Ludington, the Pere Marquette River, the Village of Idlewild, Bitely, and more.

This week we headed out Thursday morning for a three day trip along the “baby finger” of Michigan bordering Lake Michigan where we enjoyed towns and villages like Manistee, Glen Arbor, Charlevoix, Petoskey, Cross Village, Mackinac City and finally back down through Kalkaska and Cadillac.  The map of our three day trip is below.

If you’d like an interactive link to the map so you can zoom and pan on any specific area, here’s the link.

Day 1 – Manistee to Charlevoix

Our first stop was at Manistee.  We didn’t walk the town, but we did head to the beach and on the way back through town, we stopped to admire the Ramsdell Theatre.  Unfortunately we couldn’t get inside to see, but got a couple of outside pix.  I wouldn’t have stopped there, but was curious about the large brick windowless tower poking up out the back of the building.  Once we stopped and found that it was a theater, the tower to the rear made sense.

Pigs really DO Fly (at the Ramsdell Theatre sidewalk in front of the box office)
Coming attractions at the Ramsdell Theatre
Ramsdell Theater, Manistee, MI – On the National Register of Historic Places
The Ramsdell streetside .. Note the high tower at the rear where they pull up the curtains and backdrops
The public beach along Lake Michigan at Manistee, MI
Our selfie at Manistee Public Beach Park
This is a decommissioned rail car ferry. It’s hard to see, but it has train tracks inside for the cars to ride on
The stern of the ferry opens wide to allow the train cars to be rolled on to the deck
Relaxing along the Lake Michigan shoreline at Orchard Beach State Park just north of Manistee
Historical marker at Onekema on the east side of Portage Lake
The park at Onekema overlooking Portage Lake

We continued north along M-22, often catching glimpses of the mighty Lake Michigan

Selfie at Inspiration Point (Arcadia Dunes Beach at Arcadia)
The Kindness Rocks Project at Arcadia Beach

It was a beautiful drive up M-22 along the lake.  Since it was a weekday, very little traffic and almost nobody else on the beaches we stopped to check out.

We continued up M-22 out of Arcadia, through Watervale and Alberta and on into Frankfort where we were able to pull in to the public park at the marina, break out our cooler and have a light lunch of tuna salad on crackers along with some cottage cheese and washed it all down with a few gulps of ice cold lemonade while watching the boats bobbing in the water and the sea gulls dive for their lunch (in the harbor, not at our picnic table!).

Leaving Frankfort, we headed on up through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore across Glen Lake into and out of Glen Arbor and into Leland where we knew from previous visits we would find the historic “Fishtown“.  It’s mostly just a tourist trap now with lots of shops filled with collectibles and souvenirs, along with a few cafes but also is an active harbor for pleasure vessels and charter fishing operations as well.  You can easily spend a lot of money in Leland.

Years ago we had continued north on M-22 all the way to the Grand Traverse Light adjacent to the Lelanau State Park at the tip of the baby finger.  It’s a nice trip up with a wonderful little museum in the lighthouse and I’d recommend this to anyone visiting the area.

Now, I KNEW that Leland was a tourist spot, but we thought maybe we’d get a room there for the night and be able to walk the sidewalks and rub elbows with those further up the economic ladder from us.  NOT!  We found a motel online and our smartphone said that they had only one room left, so we darted up the street to get there and check in.  The nice young lady behind the desk told us the rate was $391 (per night!) and NO, that did NOT include a few rounds of golf!

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Soooooo, we headed out of Leland, through Sutton’s Bay and on to Charlevoix where we hoped to find a room for the night.

We found the Maple Leaf Motel (only 10 rooms) on the south end of town where our host Cindy welcomed us to the last room available, and as promised we found the room to be clean.  I asked Cindy where we should have dinner tonight and she recommended the new “Cantina” restaurant located in an alley off the beaten track.  She also told us about the 80th annual Venetian Festival going on in downtown this week.  We decided that all sounded like a great night so off we went …

The harbor at Charlevoix, getting ready for the band at the Venetian Festival
The Venetian Festival at Charlevoix
Dinner menu from the Cantina restaurant where we had dinner
Cantina “Street Corn” grilled, rolled in Chipotle Mayo, then rolled in cheese – Yummy!
Kathy’s Chicken and Shrimp Tacos
My beef and bean burrito
Mural on Rexall Drugs downtown Charlevoix
A man and his dog on the paddle board in the harbor
A 2 hour cruise out into Lake Michigan on a catamaran

Some shots of folks enjoying the festival food at the harbor and listening to the live band in the amphitheater

This ferry coming in from Beaver Island (watch the video below)

 

Kathy wanted to go on the Ferris Wheel.  But she also wanted ME to GO ALONG!

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know that I’m “skeered of heights”.  I can’t even climb up on top of the motor home.  I can handle a six foot ladder, but that’s about all.

It might not look it, but I’m shakin’ in my shoes
A shot from atop the wheel (Skeered)
A street performer downtown Charlevoix during the Venetian Festival

The video below shows a group of kids having a ball on the hill.  It would be a really tough climb with a sled in the snow.

We got the last room in town, $85 / nite. Not a lot of fluff, but a clean room
Resting back in the room after dinner and the festival downtown

That’s it for now, the next post will be from Charlevoix through Petoskey, Cross Village and the Tunnel of Trees and then up across the bridge (and back) and then down to Kalkaska.

 

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy
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