Mackinac Island as seen from Round Island

Paddling to Mackinac Island - July 3, 2007

Ok, so here was the plan: Drive the 10 hours from Erie, Pennsylvania to the Straits of Mackinac; cross the bridge to the Michigan Upper Peninsula, then settle in to a room in St. Ignace. Next morning, on July 3rd, paddle from St. Ignace to Mackinac Island in two Old Town Cayuga 160 touring kayaks. (We call them Lemon and Lime, since they are yellow and green.) It is 4 miles across to the island, then another 2.5 around to the harbor, where our island hotel would be waiting.

Below: The view from the hotel in St. Ignace, the launch site, and the team with Lemon and Lime. It was just chilly enough that I opted for a dry top. It became a sweat top by the end of the trip!

The Launch: The plan was to stay north of the ferry lanes. Three different ferry companies, Star Line, Arnold's, and Shepler's, make regular runs to and from Mackinac all day long. It would not be wise to get in their way while paddling a 16-foot kayak. We noticed they tended to travel in packs, which made avoiding them fairly easy. Using our planned route, we would be able to paddle the four-mile crossing from St. Ignace to the island, then follow the shoreline around into the harbor, and only cross the ferry lanes at the harbor. Looming in the distance like a mountain range, the island doesn't look four miles away. It's very deceiving! In the pic on the right, you can see one of the Star Line boats off in the distance, to the right of me in my green Cayuga. The Star Line fleet is easy to spot, with their huge rooster tails. While I always thought the unnecessary display was silly, it definitely made it easier for us to spot one of those ferries approaching on the horizon.

St. Ignace and the southern end of the Upper Peninsula are visible in the pic on the left. Also visible are the towers of the Mackinac Bridge. Both pics give a good visual on the size of the swells; My green Cayuga looks like it's stern-low, while Kim's yellow Cayuga appears to be completely submerged.

Land Ho! We finally reach Mackinac Island, but can't get too close to shore, due to the disorganized breakers. We're still in good shape anyway, so we continue the 2.5 miles around to the harbor. The Grand Hotel from a kayak is a grand sight, indeed. As we approach the harbor, Arnold's dock is on the left, and our hotel, the Chippewa, is in view on the right. Timing coming into harbor is of utmost importance, as we need to be sure to avoid a pack of ferries either arriving or departing.

We find that there is no place to land the kayaks! In spite of what I'd been told by the hotel, there are no accommodations for us to land or store our boats. We paddle around to the other side of the Arnold dock and find about a dozen kayaks stashed in among the pilings. Kim talks nice to the dock manager and gets permission to add ours to the collection. This will be their resting place for the next two nights. We get checked into the hotel, rest, and prepare for the evening's festivities: the annual Mackinac Stone Skipping Tournament Banquet, held this year at the Yacht Club.


Page 2 - On to Round Island!