Day 7: Weathered in

We awoke at 4:30 AM to the sound of thunder and the howling of a great wind. The waves rocked our tied up sailboat like we were on water. I worried about George and Beth who were planning on leaving at 5:30 AM to beat the strong winds, but the wind was already here. They are still having problems with their inboard motor. Their options to get back home in their boat are facing strong winds or waiting a few more days and sailing without wind. George has to get back to work and there aren’t any slips available to stay longer.

Water is starting to trickle into my bed on the berth. The boat just slammed into the dock. The tied down lines are flapping. The waves are crashing against A dock where we are staying. Water is spraying across the dock and trickling down the other side. The boat is creaking. I’ve never been on the boat in so much wind.

Paul is still sleeping. It was a rough night’s sleep. I awoke to the sound of a ping thinking it was a message from George. Instead, it was an early morning Facebook wave from Paul’s step-dad Darryl.

When Paul woke up, he told me that George did not sail out. There is a gale warning on the water. It will be dangerous walking down the wet A dock to get to the shower.

Paul and I walked down A dock hand in hand to get to the shower. Paul was worried that a monster wave would send me over the edge slipping on the wet dock sliding into the water electrocuted by boat current or something of that nature. We made it safely to shore but we really didn’t need that shower since we were already soaking wet. Standing water was pooled on the dock. The tops of my toes were chafed from my wet sandals and a few of my toes were bleeding.

We went shopping this afternoon downtown. I bought a pair of sunglasses that everyone said made me look like Zsa Zsa Gabor. Wait, isn’t she dead?? I also bought an anchor ring to remind me of the vow renewal ceremony. I bought these lovely items at Al Johnson’s. It is the place with the goats on the roof.

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When we arrived in Sister Bay, I thought that I was seeing things when I saw goats on the roof nearby. I was told that the goats were eating the grass on the roof of a restaurant named Al Johnson’s. I had to ask if the restaurant was like Red Lobster. Do I pick the goat I want to dine on tonight and they cook it up for me kind of place?? Surprisingly, goat was not a menu item. Oh my! Thankfully sometimes things aren’t the way my wild imagination thinks they could be.

That night when we came back to the boat for the evening we heard something buzzing. We discovered that we were out of water and the pump was running like crazy.

Soon we turned in for a restless night of sleep.

 

Day 6: Sister Bay

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We couldn’t escape the rain.

If we left the marina today, we would’ve been faced with the strong winds and waves of yesterday with the addition of rain. We decided to stay an extra day or two in Sister Bay. Tomorrow we are facing 40 mph winds and a high of 62 with the cold front that came in.

We caught a glimpse of the schooner we saw out on the water a few days before snug in the slip across from ours.

This afternoon our group is taking a cab to the winery.

As for now, I am sitting here in the boat writing while watching the rain fall.

We are doing a load of laundry. Last night after finally being able to shower, we hung out our towels to dry but they never did. My towel smells so musty that after showering today I felt dirty drying off with it. Paul threw everything together in the washer…towels, dark warms, dark colds, and whites. It really threw off my anal laundry sorting fetish, so I had Paul do the wash..

It’s starting to thunder..

The clothes didn’t dry well in the dryer. We couldn’t put them in longer since we were leaving and our friends were waiting for us to use the dryer. So we hung half wet clothes and towels around the boat.

The cab driver drove up from Green Bay which was quite the hike (almost an hour and a half one way). She took us to the Lautenbach Winery where we sampled wine, took the tour, and did the cherry pit spitting contest. Paul and I won the cherry spitting contest based on our gender. Wow, I bet that would look really good on a resume.

I bought a bottle of my favorite wine Summer Breeze with the sailboat on the label.

Then the cab driver picked us up and took us back to the marina.

I decided to wait in the cab by myself with the driver while everyone braved the rain to walk their wine back to their boats. The cab driver proceeded to tell me her whole life story and all of the issues she is having with her teenagers. I really felt rather uncomfortable.

Who shares all of their personal life experiences with a complete stranger?? Oh wait…isn’t that what I do?? Damn…who am I to judge then?

The rain keeps falling..

Day 5: Our 20th anniversary/Death’s Door

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Just like that, the weather changed and we had to leave the beauty of Washington Island behind. We had to leave early or risk being stuck on the island in bad weather for several days.

I got up early. I couldn’t sleep. I admit, I am a little nervous about the day to come. We are looking at strong winds and waves as we sail around Death’s Door (the tumultuous waters where the bay and Lake Michigan collide).

We fully suited up for foul weather in our rain coats over our pants and life jackets. The warm weather was gone. I felt like I was weighed down with a bullet proof vest.

It was rough heading out against the waves. There were 2 men on kayaks in the channel. One dressed for the weather with a life jacket and the other in just a swimsuit. It was nerve wracking trying to maneuver our sailboats around them. We were surrounded by shallow water.

Once again it was fun riding the waves at first. But then came the moment of panic. It was a get me out of here because I feel sick like turbulence on a plane.

We put the main sail up as we were sailing around Death’s Door. I was anxious keeping the boat in irons while Paul put up the sail. The waves were knocking the boat around making it hard to keep it in a straight path. We heeled the boat to the side to keep it in irons and it was a scary feeling. Paul tethered himself to the boat in case he fell off. It didn’t rain but we were wet from the waves crashing against the bow.

After we put up the main sail, we saw a trimaran sailboat struggle through the strong winds. They were moving very fast and we weren’t sure if they were in peril. Paul had me grab the binoculars and turn on the emergency radio while he steered closer to them. They gave us a thumbs up. Just a bunch a thrill seekers sailing the high winds through Death’s Door.

It would’ve been a very bad day for our vow renewal ceremony. I’m not sure where we were at the exact time we got married 20 years ago. I think it was close to the time that we were sailing underneath the parasailor. Paul wanted me to put the camera down and focus on getting to shore. I didn’t have time to count down the minutes to our exact anniversary. As we got closer to shore, the wind got stronger and the waves grew higher. We had difficulty earlier getting the sail down.

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There were several marinas near the area we were going to. We didn’t know which was the right marina or even how to get into it. We couldn’t see the opening. We were near Captain Tom who knew the way. We turned the boat around to follow him and got hit by the waves. We were soaking wet. It was hard to get to shore with the wind and waves as strong as they were. Things got a little messed up as someone was in Captain Tom’s slip. Finally our feet were on shore!

After relaxing for a minute, we were excited to finally have a hot shower after a couple days without. Everything was going great until I went to put on my makeup to go out for supper. The cover came off of my liquid foundation and it poured everywhere making a big mess. I had to throw out some makeup and my bag as wiping it up smeared it all over the place.

We went out to eat at the Wild Tomato. They had the best pizza, but they also had over an hour wait for a table. So we sat at the outside bar and listened to live music on a Wednesday night. Our group laughed and talked like we’ve known each other forever instead of just meeting. There was absolutely no conflict the whole trip. Everyone got along great.

That evening it cooled off. I could hear the wailing wind and crashing waves from my bed in the berth. It looks like the weather is going to be bad the next couple of days. We might get holed up here for a few more days.

 

 

Day 3: Washington Island

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The storms parted around us and we arrived late afternoon in paradise. The marina in Jackson Harbor on Washington Island was small, rustic, and quaint. I was taken back in time to the 1980’s without the big hair.

There wasn’t a big boater’s lounge here. In fact, there wasn’t a boater’s lounge at all. The weather channel was not blasting on a big screen TV. There wasn’t coffee and magazines set out to enjoy. There weren’t any showers or bathrooms besides the pit toilets down the road. There wasn’t a wifi password and most of our group didn’t even have a cell signal.We weren’t constantly bombarded with several forms of media. I didn’t even find out what my facebook friends ate for breakfast.

It gave a sense of seclusion. It took me back to the pleasures of simpler times like having an uninterrupted conversation and being content to watch the sunset.

Instead of modern conveniences, this marina offered amenities such as peace and tranquility. I thought it would be the perfect place for our vow renewal ceremony, except for the no shower part.

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The marina was also the home of old cars and boats. Next to the marina was an area where old cars were parked for a monthly charge. I saw many cars that reminded me of my childhood. I saw an old station wagon like the one my aunt drove. I saw more old cars than newer models which also gave the feeling of nostalgia for times past. I didn’t realize how much I missed the quiet.

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I also took some pictures of the old fishing boats. Shortly after, a man left on this boat to go fishing. He probably thought I was a bit crazy for taking pictures of his fishing boat with all of the beautiful sailboats around me.

City folks come up north to take pictures of trees and country folks go down to Chicago to take pictures of skyscrapers. How easily we tend to become immune to the beauty of our everyday environment…

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There was a feeling on the island of getting away from it all. Getting away from the noise. Getting away from the money, crowds, and big boats. Getting away from the hustle and bustle of tourists.

There was a small cafe and a concession stand on the island with limited hours. There was also a museum of some sort that we didn’t have the opportunity to walk through.

It was my favorite marina by far.

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From the marina we saw this small building. We had to walk across a bridge to get there. The door was unlocked so curiosity got the best of us and we opened it one night. Inside there was a small ice packaging display. Some of the tools looked like they belonged in the closet of some of our states serial killers. But we won’t talk about that today.

We stayed in this paradise for two nights until the wind pushed us in a different direction.

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From Jackson Harbor we were able to view Rock Island. There are no cars on Rock Island. It contains some historical buildings, hike in campsites, a lighthouse, and a sandy beach.

This was the place where I wanted the ceremony, but stormy weather was headed our way.

Day 3: Our journey to Washington Island

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We had another late start this morning. George was having electrical problems and issues with his inboard motor. Capt. Tom was able to solve his electrical issues, but fixing the motor would involve taking it out. That wasn’t going to happen, so George tried to sail as much as possible on this trip so he wouldn’t have to use his motor.

It wasn’t long after we left the marina that I got a message about a problem at work. After all, it was early Monday morning. I felt frustrated. I wanted to be able to get away!

But is that really what I wanted?

I hardly slept the night before due to worrying about my teenagers at home. I felt a lack of control being away.

It would take many hours to get back by sailboat. Once we got to Washington Island, it would take a long time to get home by car. You need to take a ferry to get to and from the island. If there is bad weather, sometimes the ferries don’t run.

It can be a difficult passage by boat through Death’s Door. It is the point where the waters of Lake Michigan and the bay collide. There are 3 marinas on the island. This trip we are going around Death’s Door and not through it.

Washington Island is very secluded which is both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.

On our way, we passed a schooner full of tourists.

Wisconsin is a truly strikingly beautiful home state. There is nowhere else I would rather spend my summers.

I was in paradise and found myself to be feeling completely miserable. Is this all there is for me?? Worry?? I couldn’t seem to let go of the worry about my kids or the stress of work. More than anything I really wanted to enjoy this time away.

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Near the end of our journey for the day, we stopped at Schoolhouse Beach. The water was 150 feet deep near this rock formation. Once we rounded the corner, we sailed into the cove to get to the beach. I’ve heard that there is only one other beach in the whole world that has the same geological rock formation, in Iceland.

We rafted up in 20 feet of water near the beach with 3 other sailboats. It was a hot day and it felt good to jump into the icy water. There wasn’t any sand on the beach, just smooth white rocks the size of the palm of my hand. The water was clear and it was amazing to see the rock bottom.

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I took a picture of the beach from the boat. I didn’t want to take my camera or my phone to shore on the dinghy. This picture does not do it justice.

Most of us jumped into the water from our sailboats. We had an incredibly hard time climbing the rocks to get to shore and kept falling into each other. It was easier to crawl or slide to a place to sit. Some of the rocks had paint splattered on them but I am not sure why. The rocks were comfortably warm against my skin.

We spent an hour at the beach until the rumble of distant thunder prodded us to get back on course.

Day 2: Fish Creek

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It was another rough start to the day’s cruise.

Captain Tom, the leader of the cruise, got his tank filled with gas. Problem was that he has a diesel engine. He was telling the story of the time someone almost filled his tank with gas to the young gas station attendant. Wait..what??!? You didn’t want gas? He already put in 3 gallons of gasoline.

We were waiting for Captain Tom to fuel up before heading out when his son-in-law came rushing over asking if we had a siphon. It took awhile to find something to siphon the gas with. I heard the harbor master speak hurriedly to his wife on the phone asking her to find something that could be used. Captain Tom was patient, didn’t swear at the young man, and kept his cool. This fiasco delayed us by a couple of hours, but we weren’t on a schedule.

In the meantime, we shared our horror stories about running and sailing. Quite a few of the sailors are athletes as well.

This morning the winds were ideal with 2 to 3 foot waves. Our destination today is Fish Creek, a tourist town.

I’m not feeling as anxious today, although I am wanting to write something for our vow renewing ceremony. I didn’t get very far. Paul and I will be celebrating our 20th anniversary in a few days. As a ‘writer’, I want to create something meaningfully deep and profound. No pressure! I want to celebrate on the exact day and time we were married 20 years ago, but the weather looks iffy. Paul and I are planning on jumping off the back of Captain Tom’s boat afterwards.

We won’t be celebrating the day with family and close friends, but with complete strangers. To be honest, I wouldn’t invite half of the people that I did to my wedding if I got married again. Granted, some of our guests passed away.. I wouldn’t have the same people in my wedding party. I don’t know if they would even be invited, sadly. Friendships change, people change..The people I consider my best friends now I didn’t even know 20 years ago.

It is hot on the boat today. I was tempted to jump into the water that is over 100 feet deep. The sun beat down on us. Paul tried to make a shelter from the sun out of tarp. I simply took off my shirt (the other boats were far away). I leaned over the side and tried unsuccessfully to dip my toes in the bigger waves. 

The sky grew dark and it looked like we might be hit with storms on the open water. We started the motor, but once again it wasn’t working right. The motor died before making it into the harbor and we almost hit Captain Tom’s boat. I pushed our boat off of his carefully with my foot.

We were so sweltering hot when we got to the marina that we walked to the public beach nearby. The marina was packed with big boats. It seemed very crowded and hard to get to the beach even though it was close by. We could hear thunder in the distance but we didn’t care. The water was cool and refreshing. The storms parted around us.

Later in the evening we walked to a nearby pizza place for supper, but it was over an hour wait so we went somewhere else. Afterwards everyone went to bed early, but I was too upset to sleep.

Alex texted me during supper that he wanted to quit his job. He ended up staying out with his friends until 11 PM and had to get up for work in the morning at 4:30 AM. It had me stressed out.

I talked about it to a few people in the group. Captain Tom said that if you haven’t raised teenagers, then you can’t explain it. But if you have, no explanation is necessary. Captain Tom said when his son was 17 he left home for several weeks and wanted to drop out of school. As an adult, he is a successful business owner. Strangely it made me feel better.

Regardless, I slept poorly that night. Despite my worry, Alex made it to work on time.

 

 

This girl on the train

  

Sometimes people like a story of great tragedy, drama, and suspense. But not today, people, I’m on vacation. If you could call taking a few days off to run 18 miles a vacation, that is.

Last night, my husband and I stayed overnight in Milwaukee at The Brewhouse Inn and Suites. Only in WI can you stay at a hotel that was once a brewery. Across the street is a microbrewery that was once a church. We spent most of the evening at the bar and grill next door. We happened to be there eating during trivia night. The trivia turned to 80’s bands. I exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, I had that tape back in the 80’s”. A young guy at the next table said that his mom did too. His mom?? As we looked around the room, we were the oldest ones there. Seems like we are either the oldest or youngest in the crowd lately. Ah, midlife…but still no pending crisis. 

It was a warm evening when we pulled in, probably the warmest of the year around 70 degrees. But today it is snowing at home. 

Before we left, my husband and I renewed our passports. For the first time, I listed my adult daughter as an emergency contact instead of my mom. It was a sobering experience. Paul’s mom passed away this year and she was younger than my mom. By the time it is time to renew my passport again, my mom will almost be 80. Yikes! 

Paul and I are planning on taking a trip for our 20th anniversary next winter. Twenty years doesn’t seem that long. Where did the time go? Then I look around at my closest friends, only one couple has been married longer. My two best friends have been married half as long on their second marriages.

At first I wanted to plan a trip to Bora Bora. But apparently February is their rainy season. The last thing I want to do is spend tons of money and be stuck indoors. Seriously, we are not newlyweds. 

This summer over our anniversary we are planning on going sailing for a week. I would like to sail to Washington Island on the tip of Door County. Believe it or not, I have never been there. I told my husband that wherever we are exactly at the time that we got married, we would do a little vow renewal. I am going to present him with a new wedding band since he lost his second at the theater. The first he broke fishing. Hobbies! 

I can see us pulling up to some beach somewhere decked out and asking a random stranger to participate. My husband exclaimed how spontaneous that was of me. Seriously, I am planning it all out right now!

Right now this girl is on the train. We left Milwaukee this morning and are heading to Michigan so I can do 18 miles of trail running with my cousin. It is supposed to be cold and rainy for the race. At least it won’t be snowing I guess. 

This is my first time on an Amtrak train. I did ride the subway in Chicago and a few old trains at museums. Please Europeans, stop laughing. 

I did see some Amish people waiting for the train at a table nearby. Their eyes were glued to the big screen TV behind me. I chuckled inwardly as they watched a pharmaceutical ad with their jaws dropped. Everyone else in the room did everything not to watch the commercials. I love people watching.

Here’s to the start of the racing season. Here’s to 18 miles of grueling trail running in the muddy rain. Here’s to our first long trip on a train. 

I’m going to try to not worry about the kids or work. It’s time for adventure.. 

Anniversary race

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The sailboats are snuggling in their harbor slips deceptively calm before the start of the race.

On our actual anniversary date, I decided to join Paul as crew on his sailboat race. It is risky for a married couple to do, especially on their anniversary date. I was one of the few, if not only, wife out racing last night with her husband.

I have heard a lot of wives say that they can not race with their husbands. In the excitement of the event, the husband at times can raise his voice and speak harshly to his wife. I spoke to someone this weekend who said that she cried after her husband yelled during a race. They got into a big argument, and never raced together since.

I work with my husband, so…

Then there are the wives that don’t want to go sailing at all. There are a lot of reasons why. They are afraid of being on water and boats. Boating is the only mode of transportation that doesn’t terrify me. Another really good reason….they are afraid of spiders. Again, not me. I don’t even mind touching them. Or maybe, just maybe, they can’t stand their husband. Who knows? I love sailing. What is there not to love? Every time is a different adventure even if you go to the same place.

I prefer cruising over racing though. Can I let you in on a little secret?? There was more yelling during our anniversary cruise than on our anniversary race. Not to worry, it was nothing major. Paul accused me of not caring about him anymore. He is right. Sometimes I am uncaring. I lack patience. I lack empathy. I think that part of growing up in survival mode has made both of us lack empathy. We needed to have a thick skin and not care. But that is no excuse.

Sometimes I wish the honeymoon phase of marriage lasted a little bit longer. Maybe it would have if we didn’t have a newborn on our first anniversary. Who knows? It seems like those annoying quirks that I thought were cute at first didn’t stay cute for very long. Now we have a mutual annoyance for each other. Then add busyness and stress to the picture which tends to naturally give me less tolerance and makes me more critical.

It takes a lot of work to make a marriage great after being together over 20 years, but it is well worth the effort. We are trying to be more supportive, not take each other for granted, and take the time needed to make our relationship a priority. It is difficult because neither one of us has ever been shown this.

After the race, we celebrated our anniversary in a little dive bar. It was one of the few places that serves food after dark. Surprisingly, the food was great. We played a game of darts together and talked to another sailor that wandered in. He told us that he wished his wife would sail with him. Then we went home and decided to call it a year.

19th anniversary sail continued…

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And just like that, Sunday morning arrived and it was time to sail home. It was a warm day with agreeable winds that would blow us back home.

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This is a picture of Paul attaching the whisker pole to the jib sail. This allowed us to open our sails wide to let the breeze carry us home.

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It can be lonely out on the open water. We saw a couple of birds, boats, and this big cargo ship on the horizon. Paul said that the only time he sees me fully relax is when I am on the sailboat. We can be heeling at a sharp angle with me calmly snoozing.

Today we have been married for 19 years and together for 21.

A few years ago, I saw an older couple walking together hand in hand on the beach. We had the opportunity to talk and I asked them how long they have been together since they looked so happy and in love. They responded that they have been dating for 6 months or some similar period of time. What I don’t see is what I want to be. I want to be that couple that has been together over 20 years walking hand in hand on the beach.

I worry about the changes that this next year will bring. We are facing the loss of our first parent this coming year. Saying good-bye has been a difficult process. Plus, in a few short weeks, we are sending our firstborn off to college and into the adult world.

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On the last leg of our journey, another sailboat pulled up along side of us. They warmly greeted us with shouts we could barely hear then continued sailing a different way. Our paths intersected for a short time.

Paul had to be back early for play practice, but we had a few minutes to stop at a quiet sandy beach. We let the cool waves take us to shore. When we got there, we found a little sailboat stuck partially under the sand. We carried the pieces to shore. It was sad to see the broken abandoned boat. It felt like we were seeing a lost dream. The wind must have taken it from its home.

No matter where the winds of life end up taking us, I am happy to be with a great man.

And for that brief moment in time, we were able to walk hand in hand on the beach.

19th anniversary sail

   

Seconds tick into minutes. The gears of time grind onward clicking minutes into hours. Hours turn into days, then months, then years, then decades. Before I knew it, I spent half my life with the same person. Sometimes I want to stop the sand from flowing through the hourglass so fast, suspend time for awhile. I wish our days were as numerous as sand on the beach then I won’t have to grasp time so greedily before it slips away.

Paul and I left Friday morning to sail to our destination, a beautiful resort in Door County for our 19th anniversary. The winds were against us. But we didn’t have time to go any other days, we had to force it. Last minute I decided to pack my rain coat, even though we weren’t expecting rain. I took the above picture as we were leaving. A few minutes later, I exchanged my shorts for pants and put on my rain coat. We were sailing against the wind and 3 to 6 foot waves were smashing into the bow soaking me. We had to motor for 2 hours under these conditions. I barely kept down my breakfast. I guess that is what happens when nature conflicts with your schedule.
 

After several hours of fighting the waves, we finally were able to sail through smoother waters. We did sail awhile for fun, but it didn’t get us towards our destination. It is ironic how something seemingly small, like the wind or a slight change in direction, can set the whole trajectory off course. Marriage is a lot like that at times too. The funny thing is that we don’t really notice the little changes at the time. Only when we look back with a great amount of reflection can we try to chart where we went off course. 

 

We arrived safely at our destination and were very warmly greeted by the other sailors. We were even offered the use of a car if an emergency arose at home which I came close to taking them up on. Lol. I AM the worried mother of three teenagers after all! We toured a larger sailboat and were offered a sail the following morning. We politely declined to explore a new beach. 

The next morning we motored 45 minutes to a small beach that was remote to get to from land but rather crowded by water. We were planning on blowing up our dingy and having a picnic on shore followed by a swim. The spot where we anchored was rather weedy. Then we noticed that the beach was full and the water was empty. So we decided to ditch the whole dingy idea and head back to the resort pool. We were talking about the beach we explored with someone and how the people didn’t seem to care for the water. We were told that the water was 61 degrees! Bbbrrrrr!! I’m glad we decided to eat our lunch aboard and head back to the resort pool. I even went into the hot tub and sauna for awhile. 

That is summer in Wisconsin. 

To be continued….