Arriving to and Leaving from the Island

Previous Post About Bois Blanc Island: Bois Blanc Island Dinners

Coming on the ferry to Bois Blanc Island has an unofficial ceremony to it.

A member of the Plaunt family that runs the ferry backs my rented car onboard and I walk on.

As the ferry pulls away from the dock I watch the bridge opening in front of us over the Cheboygan River.

The ferry pulls out past the icebreaker that keeps the Straits of Mackinac open during the winter.

This boat is named the USCGC Mackinaw.
This boat is named the USCGC Mackinaw.

I watch the approach of Bois Blanc Island in the distance for a bit before returning to the car to read, chat, or sleep.

Once the ferry gets closer everyone becomes antsy and crowds to the front.

The ferry was pretty busy because people were coming for a tour of all the neat cottages on the Island.
The ferry was pretty busy because people were coming for a tour of all the neat cottages on the Island.

My relatives wave from the sea wall protecting the ferry dock on Bois Blanc.

When we dock we shout, “Hello!” before driving the car off.

We park the car and exchange hugs and greetings with the relatives. Then we drive to the cottages to take out our groceries and luggage.

Leaving is pretty much the same thing.

The relatives come to wave goodbye. They hug, say what a good time they had, and promise to see us again.

The ferry pulls out and I walk down to the end of the sea wall to wave goodbye one more time.

Bye bye, Ferry!
Bye bye, Ferry!

Until next year!

-Mister Ed

This is the last of my posts about my trip to Bois Blanc Island this year. Hope you enjoyed them!

Bois Blanc Island Dinners

Previous Post About Bois Blanc Island: Food on the Island

Due to popular request (one person) I’ll be going into a little more depth about what food we ate on Bois Blanc Island.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos of what we ate. Instead, here’s a nice before and after photo of our rental car’s license plate.

Look at how much dust gets on a car when it drives on Bois Blanc!
Look at how much dust gets on a car when it drives on Bois Blanc!

And now on to the food!

There were sevenĀ dinners we had on the Island. Ribs, meatloaf, tacos, kebabs, risotto, lasagna, and one night we went out to Hawk’s.

My wife and I made the risotto. We enjoy making it together a lot.

Risotto is a dish made from rice and broth for those of you who don’t know.

The broth is slowly added to the rice over a low flame. The rice absorbs more and more of the broth until it goes past normal rice consistency into something more like thick stew.

Vegetables and stuff are added to the risotto as well. Carrots, peas, celery, or potatoes.

Spice are welcome as well. Garlic, salt and pepper usually.

Most people add something more substantial like meat as well. My wife is a vegetarian so we opted for cheese and mushrooms instead.

It tastes pretty much like what you’d expect, thick rice stew. We really like it!

Risotto seemed a little boring for us to serve on its own. We included a side dish of roasted potatoes covered in honey dijon mustard and my aunts made a salad as well.

We were a little worried that risotto would weird people out but I think it was a success!

The other notable dinners were mostly the meat ones because of what my wife ate instead.

We were forewarned that my grandmother would be making ribs ahead of time. Fortunately, there is an excellent substitute meat product made by Morningstar for ribs. I call them fibs because they are fake ribs.

My wife ate the fibs while everyone else ate the ribs.

My wife made a side dish for herself of macaroni and cheese (her favorite) to replace the meatloaf.

My aunts made my wife some kebabs without chicken for that dinner. Unfortunately most of the vegetarian kebabs were bell peppers which my wife doesn’t like.

The gesture of preparing something especially for my wife to eat was still appreciated. My wife still had plenty to eat with all the other food made by my aunts (salad, leftovers, crackers, bread, etc).

So there it is! A few of the dinners that my family had on Bois Blanc Island.

-Mister Ed

Next Post About Bois Blanc Island: Arriving to and Leaving from the Island

Food on the Island

Previous Post About Bois Blanc Island: A Typical Day on the Island

The only picture of food from my vacation was taken on the airplane. This is WordPress, people! Not Instagram!
The only picture of food from my vacation was taken on the airplane. This is WordPress, people! Not Instagram!

Bois Blanc Island is an hour ferry ride from the closest grocery store in Cheboygan, Michigan which makes food hard to come by.

My extended family only stays on Bois Blanc for a month or two in the summer. The cottages are closed the rest of the year.

Any food left during the winter would spoil or be eaten by critters.

Every time we come to the Island we have to buy a bunch of food because there’s nothing left in the cottages waiting for us except a few nonperishables like flour and sugar.

My wife and I went to the grocery store and got EVERYTHING. Enough food for a week plus some extra.

Some things you can’t buy a week’s worth though, like peanut butter or mustard.

Inevitably we buy more food than we eat (buying less than we eat would be painful) and we end up with leftovers.

On the Island leftover food is given to your neighbors to use.

There are two places to get food on the Island, the Bar and Hawk’s Landing.

The Bar is a bar. It has food, drinks, shuffleboard, darts, a pool table, and a jukebox. Nothing unusual.

Hawk’s is a general store, gift shop, and restaurant all rolled into one.

The building for Hawk’s is split into two halves. The front is filled with tables for the restaurant. The back has the kitchen, the cash register, and the gift shop and store.

The restaurant serves breakfast and typical diner food like burgers, pizza, and fish and chips.

The gift shop sells Bois Blanc Island stuff. Shirts, mugs, honey made on the Island, poem collections about the Island, novels set on the Island, etc.

The general store sells gas station stuff like soda, beer, a few Tylenol-like things, and snacks. There’s also cereal, baking supplies, milk, and eggs.

The selection and prices are pretty bad, which is why most people bring food with them.

The only other source of food is a weekly farmer’s market.

The farmer’s market is the only source of fresh produce on Bois Blanc. Most of the stalls sell out within half an hour of opening.

Despite the lack of food options on the Island all the meals are fantastic because they’re shared with family.

-Mister Ed

Next Post About Bois Blanc Island: Bois Blanc Island Dinners

A Typical Day on the Island

Previous Post About Bois Blanc Island: Mackinac Island

I’ve described what’s on and around Bois Blanc Island, but what do we actually do there?

A typical day starts with my wife and I waking up in the Pines Cottage at 8:30. We sleep that late partially due to a three hour jet lag, but mostly because vacations are created for sleeping in.

In the morning we turn on the space heater in the living room (I’m bad at lighting fires in the fireplace) before doing some activities in no particular order.

We shower, eat breakfast, work on a 1000 piece puzzle of a dragon on a cliff, read, write, and play on my wife’s iPhone with limited internet access.

We finished! One piece was missing. Probably stolen by our cat before we brought the puzzle to Bois Blanc.
We finished! One piece was missing. Probably stolen by our cat before we brought the puzzle to Bois Blanc.

At the end of the morning we eat lunch before calling my relatives on the West End to figure out dinner plans.

My wife is a vegetarian. If meat is in the main dish we have to make sure she has something else to eat.

After calling ahead we pack up what we need for the day and go over to the West End.

When we arrive at the West End we put away any food we brought that requires refrigeration before starting another group of activities in no particular order.

We read, write, wade in the water, kayak, watch my cousin and his friend from Montana windsurf, go on a walk, bike, work on a 500 piece puzzle of a pile of beach glass, eat snacks, play board and card games, and chat with my relatives.

This kayak is FILLED with invisible spiders.
This kayak is FILLED with invisible spiders.
Bois Blanc has butterflies too! Take that Butterfly House!
Bois Blanc has butterflies too! Take that Butterfly House!
Two missing pieces that we found later on.
There were two missing pieces that we found later on.

We don’t do all those things in one day, but we managed to do them all in the week we were on Bois Blanc Island.

Around 5 or 5:30 we go over to the New Cottage for drinks with my grandparents, drinks being anything from vodka to diet soda.

We talk with them or they talk around us about people all my aunts know but I’ve never met.

Half an hour later dinner is served and we gather around a big table or two tables if one isn’t enough.

We eat dinner and dessert if there is any.

After dinner we do a few more of the afternoon activities with the additional options of watching the sunset over Round Island at 9:15, or starting a fire in the fireplace or on the beach.

First time messing with my wife's panorama option on her iPhone.
First time messing with my wife’s panorama option on her iPhone.
I made the fire with my uncle's help. Maybe I can eventually make a fire without help.
I made the fire with my uncle’s help. Maybe I can eventually make a fire without help.

Then we pack up our stuff and dodge deer on the drive back to the Pines Cottage.

At the Pines we read, write, work on the dragon puzzle, and eat a few snacks before going to bed around 11.

Then we do it all again!

-Mister Ed

Next Post About Bois Blanc Island: Food on the Island

Mackinac Island

Previous Post About Bois Blanc Island: Round Island

My uncle's piloting the family motor boat into Mackinac.
My uncle’s piloting the family motor boat into Mackinac.

Mackinac is another weirdly pronounced island name like Bois Blanc (Bob-lo). Mackinac is pronounced Mackinaw.

Mackinac Island was the original tourist location in Northern Michigan before Bois Blanc Island and it still attracts thousands of people per day.

Initially, Mackinac Island was a trading post for the local Ojibwa Native Americans. They brought furs to trade with European settlers. The Europeans then took the furs east and sold them.

The traders chose Mackinac to conduct business because it is well situated at the junction between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. People could easily reach Mackinac by boat from all over the Northwest Territory.

Twice a year there is a big sailing contest that fills the port up with colorful sails. Didn't catch the contest this year though.
Twice a year there is a big sailing contest that fills the port up with colorful sails. Didn’t catch the contest this year though.

Since Mackinac was the center of this trade it was important for the British to defend it.

The British built Fort Mackinac on the south side of the island to protect and control the fur trade.

As the fur trade died out it became replaced by tourism in the late 1800s.

Millions of people visit Mackinac Island every year, but what do they all do there?

There are gift shops, arcades, toy stores, fudge shops (Mackinac Island fudge is the best in the world), and tons of state park space to explore.

Fort Mackinac is now a historical site where costumed employees will tell you what life on the frontier was like in the 1800s.

There's a soldier down on the parade grounds giving a history lesson to some other tourists.
There’s a soldier down on the parade grounds giving a history lesson to some other tourists.

There are a few other historical buildings sprinkled around the island including an old doctor’s house and a beautiful church.

My favorite attraction on Mackinac is the Butterfly House.

It’s a little house on the hill behind the beautiful church.

The house connects to a greenhouse filled with hundreds of butterflies from all over the world.

The butterflies flap around and land on flowers and people who are sitting still while instrumental music plays through overhead speakers.

A picture doesn’t really capture the whole experience, but here’s one of my better ones when a butterfly landed on a flower.

So pretty! These two were chasing each other around the house before landing here.
So pretty! These two were chasing each other around the house before landing here.

It’s like stepping into a greenhouse full of flowers, only the flowers are flying around over your head, dancing.

My wife and I got some delicious Mackinac Island fudge before being picked up by my uncle in the family motor boat for the return trip to Bois Blanc Island.

-Mister Ed

Next Post About Bois Blanc Island: A Typical Day on the Island

Round Island

Previous Post About Bois Blanc Island: The Three Cottages

Round Island as seen from the West End beach on Bois Blanc.
Round Island as seen from the West End beach on Bois Blanc.

Round Island is just offshore of the West End on Bois Blanc Island.

From my family’s cottages, the national park is only 0.6 miles away.

My wife and I like kayaking over there when we come to Bois Blanc.

Paddle left! Paddle right! Stormy weather starts tonight!
Paddle left! Paddle right! Stormy weather starts tonight!

There is a current towards the west that will sweep you away if you don’t constantly correct your course on the kayak.

My wife and I capsized our kayak halfway to Round Island once and almost got taken away by the current.

We couldn’t right the kayak, so we ended up kicking with our feet to push the kayak the rest of the way to Round Island.

My grandpa is always in an overwatch position with a telescope on the porch of the New Cottage.

When we capsized my grandpa was ready to call the Coast Guard to rescue us if we went past Round Island into the open part of Lake Huron.

We landed on the westernmost tip of Round Island and saved ourselves a lot of trouble.

Round Island itself is empty and there isn’t much to do there. You can’t go inland because the forest is too deep. There’s an old lighthouse, but it closed when radar became the standard method for preventing ships from running aground.

My family spends our time on Round Island looking for cool rocks, beach glass, or the occasional piece of coal that fell off a freighter and washed ashore.

We do all that stuff, but mostly my wife and I go to Round Island because there is no one else on it.

Bois Blanc is isolated, but there are still happy relatives all around you.

On Round Island there is literally no other person within half a mile of you.

And sometimes solitude is all you want.

-Mister Ed

We made it! No capsizing this time.
We made it! No capsizing this time.

Next Post About Bois Blanc Island: Mackinac Island

The Three Cottages

Previous Post About Bois Blanc Island: The Island Ferry

My family owns three cottages on Bois Blanc Island.

The oldest is in the Pointe Aux Pins or Pines neighborhood near the ferry dock. That cottages is called the Pines Cottage by my family.

Ye olde hundred yeare olde building.
Ye olde hundred yeare olde building.

The Pines Cottage was built when the Island first started being a vacation spot in the late 1800s.

Originally it only had a living room and a porch.

Later on a bedroom was added, then a bathroom and kitchen, and after that a second story with two more bedrooms.

The house is old and a little janky from all the additions. One of the walls in the downstairs bedroom was clearly an exterior wall at one time.

Nearly every board in the house creaks and a few of the walls have knotholes in them that you can peer through.

We suspect that rats, mice, owls, and bats live in the closets of the house. Racoons have gotten in a few times for sure.

My aunts and uncles avoid staying in the Pines Cottage because of all these problems.

My family has a rotating pick order for spots in the cottages between my dad and his five siblings. This year my dad (I used his pick) was fifth in the order and we got stuck with the Pines Cottage.

The other two cottages are the Brown Cottage and the New Cottage, both located on the same plotĀ  of land.

These two cottages are located in a “creatively named” neighborhood, the West End.

The Brown and New Cottages feel more like modern houses.

No critters get into them. You can hear, but not understand people’s conversations in the next room. There’s a dishwasher in both cottages! The damp of the lakeshore doesn’t invade the house.

Why isn't it called the White Cottage? I don't know.
Why isn’t it called the White Cottage? I don’t know.

The New Cottage has two bedrooms. One is a master bedroom for my grandparents and the other has two twin beds.

The second bedroom is often avoided to give my grandparents some privacy.

My aunties stayed here.
My aunties stayed here.

Most of my relatives end up staying in the Brown Cottage which has three bedrooms.

One bedroom is a master bedroom, one has two twin beds, and the third has a bunk bed and a full bed for two people.

The pick order dictates who chooses first for what rooms and when they get them.

My aunts and uncles got all the rooms in the Brown Cottage, but I still wanted to come when they were there. My wife and I stayed in the Pines Cottage and endured the old house so we could see my relatives.

It was a little cold, but blankets and a space heater fixed that.

-Mister Ed

Next Post About Bois Blanc Island: Round Island

The Island Ferry

Previous Post About Bois Blanc Island: Getting to the Island

The Kristen D. as it arrives in the Cheboygan dock.
The Kristen D. as it arrives in the Cheboygan dock.

There are four ways to get to Bois Blanc Island, ferry, boat, plane, or snowmobile.

The ferry is the most common and cheapest.

Taking you own boat requires having your own boat. My family has a small dinghy, but its not nearly big enough to transport people, groceries, and luggage to the Island.

Chartering a private plane to get to the Island is expensive and gives people the heebie-jeebies because, “Does the pilot really know how to fly this thing?”

Snowmobiles are only used by the Island’s year-round residents to go over the Lake when it freezes.

All the Summer vacationers like me take the ferry.

The ferry is named the Kristen D. When I was a kid I thought it was named after Kirsten Dunst, the female lead in the first series of Spiderman movies.

The family that runs the ferry are called the Plaunts. They’ve been carrying people back and forth to Bois Blanc since 1932.

The Kristen D. holds 15 cars and dozens of people.

The Plaunts also deliver the weekly mail to everyone’s mailboxes.

This is where my grandparents go to get their mail in the summer.
This is where my grandparents go to get their mail in the summer.

The Plaunts will deliver almost anything to the Island. Packages, groceries, lumber, construction equipment, gasoline, etc. All you have to do is call them up and they’ll charge a fee for bringing it over.

Since the Plaunts control almost all transit to and from the Island they act as an unofficial governing body.

They’re also a form of law enforcement. If someone steals a TV from another person there’s only one way to get the TV off the Island. All the victim has to do is tell the Plaunts what type of TV is missing. If they see it on the ferry, they call the police.

The Plaunts provide a little bit of order in the wilds of Lake Huron.

-Mister Ed

Next Post About Bois Blanc Island: The Three Cottages

Getting to the Island

Previous Post About Bois Blanc Island: Leaving for a Week

I’m back from my trip to Bois Blanc (Bob-Lo) Island! Be prepared for a lot of posts about my time on the Island.

Getting to Bois Blanc Island isn’t as simple as hopping on a plane and then you’re there like on a vacation to Hawaii or Disneyland.

I timed it once and if the journey to Bois Blanc is made in one go it takes about 21 hours.

First, you have to drive to the airport, check your bags, go through security, and wait for your flight.

The Island and the nearby mainland town, Cheboygan, both have airports, but they are only for private planes, not commercial flights.

There are a few airports to choose from, Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, Pellston, or Travese City.

The important cities are colored yellow. I had to add a few of their names in too.
The important cities are colored yellow. I had to add a few of their names in too.

Milwaukee and Chicago have long drives to the Island if you go to those airports directly, but they work well as connections to Pellston or Traverse City.

Detroit is a six hour drive to Cheboygan. While preferable to the two day drives required from Chicago or Milwaukee, being stuck in a car for half a day is not something you look forward to after being in an airplane for a few hours.

The flight my family usually takes is a layover in Minneapolis, Milwaukee, or Chicago before a connecting flight to Traverse City.

Traverse City is a two hour drive away from Cheboygan.

If you’re going straight to the Island then you have to get groceries in Cheboygan before driving onto the ferry.

An hour ferry ride later you meet the relatives at the Island dock.

A half hour more of driving to the cottages on the West End of Bois Blanc finishes the journey.

My dad always did the trip that way, but it’s a little exhausting to do in one day.

My wife and I prefer breaking up the trip with a night in a hotel after the drive from Traverse City to Cheboygan.

There was a mixup with the hotel this time. I got confused by the online booking site and reserved a room for the wrong date.

We got shunted to an antique style bed and breakfast instead.

The Gables Bed and Breakfast reopened in June 2014 under new management after being closed for two years.
The Gables Bed and Breakfast reopened in June 2014 under new management after being closed for two years.

The place was a little rundown, but at least we had somewhere to sleep! We made it over to the Island the next day to greet my relatives.

-Mister Ed

Next Post About Bois Blanc Island: The Island Ferry

Leaving for a Week

A Google Earth view of Bois Blanc Island (Pronounced Bob-Lo Island).
A Google Earth view of Bois Blanc Island (Pronounced Bob-Lo Island).

I left this morning for a week long vacation in Michigan.

I’ve set up the site to update while I’m gone. When I get back I will undoubtedly be posting about what my trip was like.

Consider this a heads-up that if anything strange develops on the site I won’t be able to fix it until I return.

Picture above are three islands in Lake Huron, north of Michigan.

Michigan is split into two distinct parts, the Upper Peninsula and the Lower Peninsula.

When you look at a map, the Lower Peninsula is the section that looks like a left handed oven mitt.

The Upper Peninsula looks like a broken branch or something.

Anyways, those three islands are almost right between the closest points of the peninsulas. You can see the bridge to the left of the islands in the picture.

I’m going to Bois Blanc Island (Bob-Lo), the lower right one, for my vacation.

The top left island is called Mackinac Island (Mac-in-aw). The middle island is called Round Island.

Historically, Mackinac Island is the most important. It contains a fort built by the British to trade for furs with the local Native Americans.

The fort was given to the USA after the Revolutionary War, but many British stuck around.

In the War of 1812, the British retook the fort, but they had to give it back at the end of the war once again.

The other two islands can’t compete with the “staggering historical importance” of Mackinac Island.

Today, Mackinac is a tourist location reached by ferry, boat, or private airplane. It has tons of candy shops, toy shops, and fudge shops.

Fudge is the biggest export from Mackinac. The island also boasts the hotel with the largest porch in the world.

You can also visit the old fort and a butterfly zoo while you’re on Mackinac.

No cars are allowed on Mackinac, so you have to get around by walking, biking, or horses.

Round Island is a national park with nothing on it except trees, rocks, animals, and a lighthouse. It has never had any historical importance whatsoever and it is not strictly round.

Bois Blanc Island is pronounced Bob-Lo Island. REMEMBER HOW TO PRONOUNCE IT!

Bois Blanc was a timber resource for the US navy back when ships were still primarily built out of wood.

The navy started selling plots of land on Bois Blanc after they realized they didn’t need the wood anymore.

The plots were bought by people to construct beachfront summer homes in the 1880s. My dad’s mom’s mom’s dad (I think I got that right) was one of the people who bought a plot of land.

My great-great-grandpa built a cottage on the island and now all of his descendants go there for vacations.

For the next week I will be on Bois Blanc Island with my extended relatives, far away from the rest of the world.

-Mister Ed

Next Post About Bois Blanc Island: Getting to the Island