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“Remember, she has a delayed response so you have to anticipate where you want her to go, not react to what she does. If you do that you’ll always be playing catch-up.” Wise words from our Captain, but who is the “she” he refers to? Why, Manitou of course! I’m getting my first lesson in steering a 100 ton schooner, and it’s quite a thrill! We’re charging along under full sail in a fresh breeze, and I am awed by the power of this vessel vibrating under my feet as if she were a living thing.
About a mile to my left lies the densely wooded shoreline of Beaver Island, broken here and there by a summer cottage nestled in the trees. We’ve been underway for about six hours and the Captain says we should be “dropping the hook” (anchoring) in St. James Harbor by 5:00; just in time for h’ors d’oeuvres and wine tasting. I guess I forgot to mention, but this is Manitou’s annual Wine Tasting Cruise. Our host and industry professional, Tim Tibeau, guides us through a sampling of varietals from all over the world (including right here in northern Michigan) each evening at 5:00 pm. Once that blessed dinner bell is rung we take those same wines down to the main salon and enjoy them paired with supper. Good food, fine wine, fabulous sailing, and new friends; this can’t be beat!
The day has flown by in a wink. It seems we were just cranking the anchor up and setting sail. That was a bit of a workout, with everything being done by hand, but I could see our gaggle of greenhorns, from all different walks of life, coalescing into a cohesive group before my eyes! Working together as a team has quickly formed friendships and a casual ease among these folks who, 48 hours ago, were strangers.
My shipmates are scattered about the vessel; reading, chatting in small groups, napping in the sun, and lounging out in the netted head rig, suspended above Lake Michigan as Manitou churns the azure blue water to a boiling white froth. There are even one or two snapping green beans with the mess mate, in preparation for dinner.
As I ruminate on what culinary delight may be set before us tonight I can’t believe I could possibly be hungry. It seems like we just ate lunch, and there was certainly no lack; chicken stew with rosemary dumplings, fresh baked baguettes, Greek salad, and lemon bars! It must be the fresh air, that’s it. Then again, I always wake up hungry from a nap, and that hour long snooze before steering duty sure hit the spot.
As we prepare to enter the harbor the Captain relieves me at the helm and sends me forward to help douse the sails. I have to say, it’s kind of nice having gravity on our side at the end of the day as we lower each in turn.
Under engine power we glide through the narrow entrance to our anchorage, turn up into the wind and, with a clatter that reverberates off of the shore the anchor slips its bonds and we drift to a halt. The lines are coiled, the headsails furled, and the awning goes up. It must be time for wine and appetizers!
Dinner follows, of course, and once again I am not disappointed. Poached salmon with lemon butter, rice pilaf and those “team effort” green beans, not to mention fine wine, leave us with a contented glow up on deck as we find room for maple pudding cake and whipped cream.
The deck crew lowers our inflatable dinghy into the water, and those who feel the need to walk off dinner head to shore for a bit of exploration. Eager to get a closer look at that little lighthouse we passed when entering the harbor, I join the expedition.
It’s a peaceful stroll down a leafy waterfront street, lined with unassuming cottages, to reach the lighthouse. The very occasional car, generally from another era, passes by with a wave. One thing I learn quickly is islanders always wave. I like that. When did folks forget to wave back in civilization?
I reach the lighthouse and notice a stone monument with a bronze plaque mounted to it. I’m reminded of the Irish fishing heritage of this island as I read the long (too long) list of names belonging to those who cast off their lines, never to return. It’s a testament to a hard and dangerous life, even today. I’m also struck by the fact that many of the family names are obviously the forefathers of today’s island community. Those same names are scattered about on mailboxes and storefronts. There’s a certain comfort in the thought of that common lineage shared by the members of this sleepy island community.
We return to Manitou under a broad blanket of stars. I can’t remember the last time I actually saw the Milky Way! As I step aboard I’m greeted by the warm glow of oil lamps scattered about the deck, and the low murmur of conversation. Fiddle music drifts up from the main salon; First Mate Cory must have been coaxed into playing some tunes. I have to remind myself that it’s 2014, not 1880.
For a moment I hesitate between joining the gathering in the salon and heading to bed. Bed wins, but it’s just too beautiful out here to go below. So I drag my sleeping bag and pillow up on deck, settle in to a nice cozy dark corner in the bow, and drift to sleep while searching for constellations. Somehow, I know I’ll be up before dawn.
For those of you who have yet to experience the joy, exhilaration and relaxation that are part and parcel of sailing a windjammer, we thought we’d give you a taste. So let’s get a feel for a typical day aboard the Great Lakes windjammer Manitou.
For starters, what the heck is a windjammer? The term windjammer has held somewhat different meaning over time. The generally accepted definition these days is, a traditionally rigged passenger carrying sailing vessel offering participatory multi-day excursions.
Hmmm…..”participatory;” is that a euphemism for slave ship? Not at all! As we tell all of our guests when they come aboard, “You can do as much or as little as you like, but you should never feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to do.” Our goal in offering these cruises is to give folks a taste of what it might have been like to be aboard one of these majestic tall ships back at the turn of the 20th century. Many people want to get involved in the operation of the schooner to really take full ownership of their time aboard. We feel that you’ll walk away with a deeper, more rewarding experience if you become a part of the fabric of the vessel, but there is no wrong answer to how you should spend your time aboard. This is your vacation and our number one goal is to make it one of the best you’ll ever have.
So, what’s a typical day? The glimmer of pre-dawn filters into my cabin through the port light as my eyes flutter open. What am I doing awake at dawn? I’m on vacation; I should be sleeping in! But I can’t; I’m too excited about the day to come and what may lie ahead. Besides, I was so tired last night, after a full day of sunshine and a fresh breeze that I could barely keep my eyes open past 9:00 pm. The captain was right, this is like camping on the water; early to bed and early to rise, but the food is way better and I haven’t had to cook any of it!
After splashing some water on my face and brushing my teeth, I head up on deck. The whispering swish of mops greets me as I emerge from below. The deckhands are already hard at work. These guys (and girls; yes, there are many women crewing aboard tall ships) never seem to stop; mopping, polishing, wiping, and scrubbing. There always seems to be something to do aboard ship, and this cheerful bunch of twenty-somethings go about their tasks, large and small, with the single minded determination of a well-oiled machine.
But let’s get down to business. I smell coffee and a number of my shipmates are already up on deck, sipping from a steaming mug and munching on something fresh baked and, no doubt, delectable. Delectable indeed! I scoop up a lemon poppy seed scone, grab my coffee, and find a quiet perch to watch the sun break the horizon.
Soon I’m lost in conversation with my new found friend Denise. She and her husband Keith are teachers from southern Michigan. It turns out these two are enjoying their tenth cruise aboard Manitou! “It gets in your blood,” Denise muses. “There’s just something about being on the water, a feeling of peace and connection that’s hard to tap into when we’re ashore. This boat and her crew almost become like family. We’ve known Captain Dave for over 15 years, now, and he’s become a good friend. And it’s so exciting to see Captain Brendan move into a position of command. We first sailed with Brendan when he was a deckhand, and now look at him! It’s like watching your children grow up!”
“Captain Brendan; he strikes quite a figure,” I chuckle. Our fearless leader cuts the image of a Hollywood pirate; an imposing six foot tall hulk with dreadlocks down to his waist and a patchwork of tattoos. But beneath this intimidating figure lies a soft spoken, kindly soul with a passion for literature and a natural air of authority. He directs his crew with an easy confidence that inspires respect.
Ding! Ding! Ding! That’s the breakfast bell. We anxiously file down to the main salon in anticipation of a hearty meal, and we’re not disappointed. The tables overflow with an assortment of homemade goodies: Bacon, blueberry pancakes, heaping platters of fresh cut fruit, yogurt, and, just in case that’s not enough, those ridiculously good scones have been brought below and added to the mix! Oh, and did I mention that everything is cooked on a wood burning stove? Yup, when they say, “Taste of the past,” they’re not kidding. We dig in with gusto. After all, we’re going to need our energy to pull up the anchor and set sail.
To be continued……
As I look outside on this dreary, rainy November day, it’s hard to believe just how quickly summer flew by this year. Captain Brendan and First Mate Brett spent a long day yesterday getting Manitou’s winter cover secured. Before we know it we’ll be hoisting the Christmas tree up the mast! But even though we’re hunkering down for winter our sites are already firmly fixed on next sailing season. With that in mind, we are excited to announce our 2014 Windjammer Cruises!
We kick off the Windjammer season with the 6 Day Explorer Cruise ($889 pp.), from September 3-9. The 2013 trip was one for the history books! Not only did it sell out in short order, but everyone had such a fantastic time that we’re already half filled for the 2014 sail. Join us on a longer cruise and fully embrace the rhythm of wind, wave, and shipboard life.
September 11-15 we will head off on our 4 Day Wine Cruise ($739 pp.), back by popular demand! Explore the great wine regions of the world with expert host Tim Tebeau. Tim’s lifelong passion for food, wine and travel has been realized in thirteen years as a retailer, distributor and importer of great wines from around the world. Tim holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan and writes as Food & Wine Editor for Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine in addition to holding a partnership in U.S. Wine Imports, the Ann Arbor-based importer and distributor of boutique, family-owned wineries from North America and Europe. Tim hosts over thirty wine events each year to educate consumers and service industry professionals on regional wine styles and winemaking practices. He lives in Petoskey with his wife and two daughters. Each evening aboard Manitou we will discuss the winemaking histories and taste the varietals of different countries. Dinners will feature paired wines chosen by Tim as a perfect complement to our meals.
September 19-23 marks a new 4 ½ day offering for 2014; The Great Lakes Schooner Festival ($749 pp.). Join us as we gather with tall ships from around the Great Lakes! Board Manitou between 2:00 and 4:00 pm on Friday, September 23. After dinner aboard we will set sail and parade around lower West Grand Traverse Bay, together with a fleet of visiting schooners! Following the procession we will dock in company with the other vessels, giving everyone a chance to stroll the pier and view these majestic sailing ships. We will depart Traverse City after breakfast the following morning, setting a course for…..who knows where? We’ll let the wind and weather decide our itinerary! This is a rare opportunity to step into the pages of history, and only five open cabins remain!
Fear not, star gazers! The 4 Day Astronomy Cruise ($739 pp.) returns from September 25-29. Astronomer and Hillsdale College professor Mark Nussbaum will once again be our guide to the moon and stars as we study the brilliant northern Michigan heavens.
Interested in searching out the first bits of autumn color? October 2-6 is our 4 Day Fall Foliage Cruise ($659 pp.). This is a beautiful time of year to experience all that northern Michigan has to offer! Kick back, relax and enjoy the view.
Last, but certainly not least, is the season wrap up, the 3 Day Fall Foliage Cruise! Join us October 9-12 as we bid farewell to the 2014 season. This affordable cruise is only $529 per person! We’ll have the apple cider waiting for you.
No matter which trip you choose your cruise will be highlighted by new friends, casual fun, and phenomenal home cooked meals prepared on a wood burning stove. Remember, ALL RETURNING PASSENGERS RECEIVE A 10% DISCOUNT!
We look forward to sailing with you!
When you step aboard the tall ship Manitou, our goal is to create memories that will last a lifetime. In a world of prepackaged, cookie cutter experiences we pride ourselves in the authenticity of our sailing adventures. In keeping with the spirit of this goal we go to great lengths to work with local businesses in showcasing what the unique (we would say exceptional) Grand Traverse Region has to offer.
Even the Pretzels are Local?!
Our guests have many opportunities to sample the best that northern Michigan serves up. From the bar to the galley (that’s the kitchen) we present you with some of the finest tastes of the region.
Care for a glass of wine? How about a bottle of Tall Ship Chardonnay from Leelanau Wine Cellars? And guess what schooner just so happens to be featured on the label. That’s right! A lovely watercolor of Manitou has graced the front of this popular selection since 1991. Maybe your celebrating a special occasion. Well, we have just the thing for you. Pop the cork on a split of Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine from L. Mawby Vineyards, an award winning world class selection from one of the best vintners in Michigan.
Beer drinkers fear not! We serve a variety of draft and bottled selections from the wildly popular Short’s Brewing Company of Bellaire, MI. Whether you choose the malty Bellaire Brown to the slightly hoppy Pandemonium Pale Ale, we have a brew for every pallet. And yes, it’s true, you can compliment that tasty beverage with Traverse City’s very own Uncle Gene’s Backwoods Pretzels. Capt. Dave has become seriously addicted to these salty delights!
The main theme? The Traverse Region.
All of our themed day cruises feature local products and talent. And there is much to choose from, with something for every taste.
Let’s start with the daily 3-5 sail. Seven days a week we serve up Moomers Ice Cream on this cruise. What’s Moomers? Only the “best ice cream in America (as voted on Good Morning America)! This creamy delight is created on the Plummer family dairy farm, just outside of Traverse City, and it has a loyal and fanatical following. During our time on the water you will enjoy two scoops of ice cream that you will never forget. Your next stop will be a trip to the farm!
Looking for a more adult taste sensation? Join us on Sunday evenings for Short’s Microbrew tasting and pizza. The folks at Short’s will serve up four 4 oz. pours of their excellent brews, while educating you about the character of each and the process used in brewing.
If wine is more your thing we offer two nights of wine tasting and Mediterranean cuisine. Tuesday features Leelanau Wine Cellars and catering by local favorite Silver Swan Homemade Foods. The delectable buffet includes selections such as: Baked Brie with raspberry melba, stuffed grape leaves, and baba ghanoush. Silver Swan is back on Thurdays, with wine from Left Foot Charley.
How about a bit of musical entertainment? Every Wednesday evening since 1987 our decks have been graced by one of the most talented folk bands in northern Michigan, Song of the Lakes, playing chanteys, lively jigs, and songs about life on the water. There’s a reason they’ve been with us for 26 years, everybody loves ’em!
We hope you will take the opportunity to come out and experience some of the best that the Grand Traverse region has to offer. We believe strongly in the philosophy of working in partnership with local businesses. It truly shows our guests what this area is all about. The more you experience all that Traverse City has to offer, the more you will fall in love with this special town and its people, just like we have.
Scout has been sailing with charter guests for about three weeks now, and we’ve been having a great time! We’ve done a bit of
everything so far, including our standard 3 hour cruise, a Power Island Adventure, and some Sail and Stay Packages. So far Scout has proven popular with a variety of folks including families, couples and groups of friends.
Katie’s Birthday Adventure!
Our Power Island cruise was such a blast! We took three couples out on a spectacular Saturday and headed for the island. We could not have asked for better conditions to celebrate 29 year old Katie’s birthday. With crystal clear skies and a 10-15 knot breeze, we made good time sailing upwind and dropped the anchor at 11:30. Captain Dave shuttled everyone ashore for a picnic and a couple of hours of exploration. Dave and deckhand Michael worked on a few projects aboard Scout, before returning to pick up our adventurers for the journey home. But before raising anchor a few of the intrepid group took a swim in the crystal clear water of Grand Traverse Bay.
With the anchor up and the genoa (the headsail on the front of the boat) set we relaxed on a blissful downwind run back to Traverse City. Lindy even broke out some delicious homemade cupcakes to celebrate Katie’s special day! Upon our return to CenterPointe Marina our happy band departed for the next stop on the birthday adventure trail.
A Note of Thanks
We want to share this thoughtful “thank you” note we received from Crystal and James, a lovely couple who joined us for a “Sail and Stay Package” this past Saturday. They write:
We wanted you to know how much we enjoyed our time on your vessel. Scout is a most beautiful yacht. Thank you for this opportunity to experience it/her. Maybe in the near future we shall try a day trip so that we can go the island we spoke about. We will definitely spread the good word of our experience here.
Many thanks and good wishes on your future sails.
P. S. – We will remember this day for the rest of our lives. Thank you.”
Thank you, Crystal and James, for the kind words and for allowing us to share Scout with you! We look forward to that island trip in the future.
Well, it’s been a whirlwind of activity at the Tall Ship Company over these last few months! In addition
to schooner Manitou’s annual start-up ritual we’ve been immersed in the daunting but exciting task of purchasing, delivering, prepping and now chartering our new vessel, Scout. Capt. Dave has pretty much been eating, sleeping and breathing Scout since February. But with Manitou in the capable hands of Capt. Brendan, First Mate Brett, and our exceptional crew, Dave has been able to rest easy knowing that his other “baby” is well taken care of.
On Saturday, June 8 Capt. Dave and his wife Mary were joined by friends and delivery crew Caleb Park and Meghan Yeiter, stepping aboard Scout for the first time as proud owners! This moment
marked the culmination of over three months of planning, negotiating, setbacks, and breakthroughs, not to mention navigating the regulatory and financial maze surrounding the creation of a new business. After settling aboard and getting to know this new member of our family Dave, Caleb, and Meghan cast off lines and waved goodbye to Mary (who had the decidedly less fun task of driving supplies and equipment back home) as we set off from St. Clair Shores, MI and began the journey to Traverse City.
Scout and her crew got a taste of everything during the 4 1/2 day odyssey: A river, three lakes, island anchorages, plagues of bugs, fog, rain, calms, clear skies and screaming winds! It was an excellent shakedown cruise, and by the time we reached our berth at CenterPointe Marina we could already tell that we had an exceptionally seaworthy and spectacular vessel under our feet.
The last legs of our journey proved the most meaningful for Capt. Dave. 17 year old son Sam and 12 year old daughter Alaina joined the crew in Mackinaw City, followed by a touch-and-go pick up of Mary in Northport. With the whole McGinnis family together aboard Scout, we slipped into our Traverse City dock on the evening of June 13, a bit tired but ready for this new adventure!