Mackinaw City – Part 2

Well, our stay in Mackinaw City continued.  Saturday morning came with rain and a gloomy forecast for the day.  We had a super lazy morning.  We played some cards, had some screen time, and just relaxed.  Just after noon there was a break in the rain so we headed across to the other side of the marina to the USCG Icebreaker Mackinaw to take a tour.  The ship was retired in 2006 after 62 years in service and is now a museum.

USCG Icebreaker Mackinaw was built during WWII.  During our tour we learned that she was built mostly by women since the men were away serving in the war!  The cost to build her was $10 million and she is 290 feet long.  She was painted white to be camouflaged in the ice.  In recent years the ship has been repainted red.  The Icebreaker Mackinaw was built and used primarily to keep supplies moving during the winter months.  The two docents on board Saturday were both retired servicemen from the ship!  What a wealth of knowledge.


Madelyn loves a good self-guided tour so she was in luck.  With short videos scattered throughout the ship, along with plenty of items to read and see, she was happy to explore.  We were able to speak with a docent in one of the three engine rooms.  He was an engineer on the ship during his service.  The Icebreaker Mackinaw is equipped with six locomotive engines, two per engine room.  This likely sounds silly, but they actually look like trains.  The docents both reported that it was a great place to work in the winter and miserable in the summer, reaching temperatures around 130 degrees.


The USCG Icebreaker Mackinaw never got stuck in its 62 years on the Great Lakes.  It was built with 3 propellers, two in the back and one in the front.  The picture below is one of the actual propellers.  They are HUGE!  And they don’t bend when hitting things like ours do.  They are made out of steel.  The front propeller was used to chop ice, blender style.  The way the Mackinaw broke ice was to sort of ride up on top of the ice and then come down on it and crush it.  The front propeller would then chop it all up and disperse it.  The ship never got stuck because of the way it was constructed.  It has a rounded bottom and front, back and side heeling tanks.  These tanks hold water, and a lot of it.  There is a valve between them to shift the water from one side to the other.  If the Icebreaker Mackinaw became stuck, all water would be put in one side, causing the boat to heel over in that direction.  Then the crew would shift the water to the other side causing the boat to rock and heel the other way.  It would rock back and forth until loose and crush the ice beneath.


After we learned about how the Icebreaker Mackinaw broke ice, we toured the rest of the ship.  Later in service, women were on board as well and had separate bunk rooms.  We got to see the bunk rooms, the bathrooms, the sick ward, the galley and the officer’s quarters as well as the pilot house.

We were also able to walk around the decks.  We could see our boat from the deck of the ship.

There’s our boat! Back right….

Finally we learned that the USCG Icebreaker Mackinaw could tow a ship up to 1000 ft. long through the ice.  It has a towing winch called Big Bertha that hooked boats to the stern of the ship and could tow it through the ice.


Once our tour was done we went to Scalawags for fresh fish and chips for lunch.  It lived up to its reputation!  Then more fudge.  Yum.  It drizzled on and off the rest of the day.

Sunday we planned to go to Mackinac Island by ferry to watch the Race to Mackinac sailboats finish.  The race started from Chicago in stages Friday and Saturday.  After church we planned to hop on the ferry and spend the afternoon watching them come in.  Just before buying our ferry tickets Ben checked the online tracker for the boats.  The storms on Lake Michigan slowed all the boats down so badly that the closest boat was still 10 hours away so we scrapped that plan and hung around town again.  Our hearts are with the family and friends of the sailor from Chicago who lost his life falling overboard just after the start of the race.

We took a bike ride with the girls Sunday afternoon and got ice cream again.  A number of Loop boats had pulled into the marina so we went and chatted and introduced ourselves.  It was fun to reconnect with one couple we met at the Spring Rendezvous and introduce ourselves to another couple.  After a nice long visit on their boat we headed back for a quick dinner and then went out for ice cream (again!) with the new friends we just met.

With plans to leave Mackinaw City in the morning, we had some planning to do.  We have gone back and forth about which route to take to Canada, but for awhile had been settled on rounding the top of the state of Michigan and crossing Lake Huron over to Tobermory, ON.  Our plan was to meet the Wilsons there.  Monday looked ok and Tuesday looked good for the 90 mile crossing.  But the forecast has been wrong so often lately and wind keeps kicking up the water.  We were both feeling uneasy about the long crossing and couldn’t decide what to do.  The other route is to head north of Mackinac Island up to DeTour Passage and into the North Channel.  We decided to look at all the forecasts again Monday morning and make a decision then.

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