When the wonderful Wisconsin couple found our message in a bottle last weekend, it was Pat, the husband, who originally reached out to me. We exchanged a few emails, and it was so surprising and exciting to learn that our bottle had been found!
A few days later, his wife, Louise, also reached out to me. I fancy myself a writer, but Louise shares her experience like a true storyteller.
Here’s what she wrote:
Last Sunday it was delightfully warm on the beach in Wisconsin. I was “beach combing” after the winter, as we walked looking for stray toys and such that we typically need to clean up or find when I spotted your bottle in some grass way up from the edge of the water. Truly one of the most delightful fun surprises of my life! Who would have ever imagined actually finding a bottle with a message in it?! Stuff of literature and movies, but actually?
I considered saving it to open with my grandsons but couldn’t wait. Don’t worry, as you can see by the picture, I carefully replaced everything and will let them explore and enjoy it for themselves this summer. I know my two year old granddaughter will love the necklace. I placed the refilled bottle on a mantle in our house with other treasured natural mementos from walks on the beach like driftwood, turkey feathers, sea glass, a monarch butterfly, zebra mussel shells, coal, rocks, pine cones and a vase that was my great grandmother’s.
My husband and I have 8 kids and so far 10 grandkids. We love and respect the lake in all seasons and weather. It constantly changes and surprises. It reminds us of our place in this awesome universe and our responsibility to live well and respectfully in it. I will think of your family and wish the best for you whenever I look at my unexpected gift from the deep.
Bless you and safe travels.
Our message in a bottle, displayed with other treasures on Pat and Louise’s mantle.
Running along trails in dense forest, building inuksuks on rocky beaches, watching the sun set on Clarity from what once was a party palace for a wealthy Chicago inventor, and cuddling up for campfires a stone’s throw from our bow.
Rock Island was a dream of a place that wasn’t even on our radar. Tied off in Sister Bay, we were planning to try for Washington Island, the island just north of the tip of mainland Door County. But Aaron happened to strike up a conversation with our friendly dock neighbors, who encouraged us to head for Rock instead. There was a tiny dock there, they said – big enough to hold three or four sailboats, and just enough depth for us. As we set course, we weren’t even sure we would be able to get in there.
As we approached the island in late afternoon and the boathouse started to come into view, I think Aaron and I already had a feeling that this was going to be an unforgettable adventure. We landed the boat without a problem, greeted by the hospitable ranger who got us settled. From that point on, we pinched ourselves regularly, reminding ourselves how lucky we were to have found this place.
The entirety of the island is a 912-acre state park. No cars are allowed. No bikes are allowed. The only way to access the island is by boat, either private or ferry, and the only thing they sell, other than a few trinkets, is a bundle of firewood for $8 (“must be artisinal wood,” as a fellow sailor joked one night around the campfire). Rustic campsites line the southern border of the island, and there’s no cell service.
The majestic Viking boathouse that greets all visitors is the only remaining building of wealthy Chicago investor Chester Thordarson’s party compound, built in the late 1920s. Claire and Aaron enjoyed a riveting game of chess in the grand ballroom.
And what more? I’ll let the pictures below speak for themselves. We spent two days here, and it wasn’t nearly enough.
The Rock Island boathouse and small dock
Clarity’s Parking Spot for the weekend
A harmless water snake greeted us upon arrival at the dock – and he and five or six of his friends stuck around all day until the sun went down
Wealthy inventor Chester Thordarson’s breathtaking party palace
Just a quiet game of chess…
Contemplating her next move
The history talk was very informative. I’m sure the other programs were great, too, but we were too busy exploring!
Quite the venue for paddleboarding
Rock Island is appropriately named – but Claire’s as happy here as she is on any sandy beach!
I inuksuk, do you inuksuk?!
Occasionally we are in photos together 🙂
Building a hearty campfire!
Sunset from the boathouse
Clarity at dusk
Gorgeous early morning fog
Taking to the trails!
Exploring the rock cliffs
I ventured a bit further out along the rocky walls and found a little box tucked into one of the cliffs. It was a geocache! Claire played with the toys for a bit, I wrote our names down in the log book, and then put it back just as I had found it.
Can you see the rock carving?
The tiniest bouquet of wildflowers
Claire’s Harbor: She and Aaron built it together while I took a long hike to the lighthouse.
I didn’t even have to hunt for these! 🙂
Pottawatomie Light, the oldest lighthouse in Wisconsin. It was recently restored to roughly 1910 splendor and the tour is well worth the hike to get there!
I found this rock cave off to the side of the path leading from the lighthouse to rickety wooden stairs down to the beach. There were dozens on the island (though this was a more navigable one).
Fall has descended on Sturgeon Bay! A week ago, we were gladly dipping our toes in the chilly Lake Michigan water, cooling off from the 90-degree days in blissfully oppressive sunshine. Today, for a trip to town, pants and fleece jackets were in order, and I found myself wishing I had a pair of gloves.
I was prepared for colder weather up north, but frankly, this is just ridiculous. Fifty-degree days and winds steady at 15-20 mph, for at least two days now. And with the wind from the west, the waves build as they head east to Door County and max out at five- to seven-footers. That’s pretty much a sailing death sentence for Claire, as she gets seasick in fours, and likely for me, too. So, we’ve had plenty of time getting to know the ins and outs of this port.
Luckily, Sturgeon Bay is a gem, with plenty to keep us busy: Toy stores and book stores that keep Claire entertained for hours, friendly neighborhood coffee shops and bakeries to satisfy my caffeine addiction (I’ll admit it – coffee shops are my security blanket). And Sturgeon Bay is a bustling maritime community: Aaron and I have both enjoyed window shopping at Palmer Johnson Yachts and ogling the barges and freighters lined up for fixes at Bay Shipbuilding.
We’ve also been fortunate to be spending the extra days at a marina that has a gorgeous clubhouse, where I can fix our dinners in a full kitchen and we can cuddle up on the couches and catch some cable before heading back to Clarity.
The weather is supposed to break a bit tomorrow, with the waves dissipating and the temperatures slowly creeping their way back up throughout the week. The plan is to finally cast lines tomorrow morning, after four (GASP!) nights here, and head to Egg Harbor. Fingers crossed that a fish boil is in our future!
Calm seas on our sail from Kewaunee to Sturgeon Bay
Aaron made a delicious breakfast with blood sausage from Port Washington.
We found some wind!
The captain checks our position
Stickers at sea
Coming up on the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal, the path that connects Lake Michigan with Green Bay.
Cruising up the canal
Claire was enthralled as they raised the Bayview Bridge so Clarity could pass underneath on the way to the marina.
No, dad. Even though you safely got us to Sturgeon Bay, I will not share my sandwich with you…
Roughing it at CenterPointe Marina. That’s the clubhouse; beyond is the pool, hot tub and outdoor fireplace.
The lovely salesperson at Blue Ivy on 3rd Avenue let Claire try on all of the shoes in the store.
Dancing Bear Toys in downtown Sturgeon Bay. We spent at least a few hours in here, but Claire would have happily spent more.
Making friends with Jean-Louise, the kitty that lives at Dancing Bear.
Historic 3rd Avenue
Lola’s Bakery and Restaurant, just down the street from the marina. A great place for homemade elephant ears!
Towers at Lola’s
Madison Avenue, another cute historic shopping district across the river from downtown.
The tug John Purves, available for tours at the Door County Maritime Museum. Interestingly, Claire is not tall enough to tour it (at least 48 inches).
Fro-Yo cheers at Frozen Spoon
While the parents taste wine, the kiddo will play 🙂
My little sailor girl. She’s getting so old!
Sturgeon Bay Bridge
Our batteries recharged in this sleepy community, a welcome reprieve from our last port. We honestly knew nothing about this town, other than that it was a stop on the way north, and were pleasantly surprised by its charm, with a picturesque lighthouse, scenic downtown, rural trails and friendly residents.
While Aaron took advantage of the Wi-Fi in Amy’s Coffee Shop to get some hours on the clock, Claire and I went adventuring. We toured the WWII tugboat permanently docked along the river, just off of Main Street. We made fast friends digging holes at the beach and went on a scenic marshland walk. And we managed to find some delicious local custard – with sprinkles, of course.
We spent two full days in town – a half-day too long, in my opinion, since it is quite small – but Aaron’s work schedule and the five-to-seven-foot waves out on the lake after Tuesday night’s storms and the cold front that followed pushed back our departure. The extra time allowed me to make a grocery run and knock out some laundry – the less glamorous but necessary elements to these cruises.
Friday morning, with the sun blazing and brisk temps in the 50s, we bundled up, brewed a French press and cast lines for Sturgeon Bay, the southernmost city in Door County. For the past year, as we’ve visualized this cruise, that’s been the goal – but schedules can change, weather may not cooperate, the boat could have issues. Regardless of planning trips like this, where you wind up is never a given. I’m proud that we’ve already made it this far.
Coming in to Kewaunee, about an hour before a big storm rolled in.
Downtown, along the riverfront
This little sleepyhead was tuckered out! We found her this way the first morning in town.
For our two days in town, we became staples at Amy’s Coffee House, the only java shop in town and one of the only places with reliable Wi-Fi. Their stash of games and toys kept Claire happy for at least an hour!
A little lakefront peninsula on the north side of the river, across from downtown, showcased some epic properties with private professionally landscaped slips. Aaron, I’ll take this one.
Touring the tugboat Ludington, which towed ammunition barges across the English Channel during WWII’s D-Day invasion. The boat now permanently resides in town.
The three-level engine room
“Excuse me, captain. I have a very important joke to tell you…”
Their galley is bigger than my galley.
This short but scenic walk was just down the street from the marina
“Come on, Mom, hurry up!”
The observation deck at the end of the marshland walk
Story lantern before bedtime
Claire approved of Kewaunee Custard
Home sweet home at Salmon Harbor Marina