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Reelin’ In The Years August 25, 2014

Posted by Fritz in Yachts and other things that float.
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One of the joys of summering in northern Michigan is the proximity to the Interlochen Arts Academy. Interlochen (as it’s known by the locals) is a privately owned, 1,200-acre arts boarding school that draws young people from around the world to study music, theater, dance, visual art, creative writing, motion picture arts, and comparative arts.

Each summer they put on a concert series that brings in the best musical talent from around the world and last Wednesday, Steely Dan wowed the crowd. Oh yeah…this has been on my bucket list for a long time

Dave

Dave and my front row seat

but little did I know I would not only see them but do it from the best seat in the house.

My lifelong buddy Dave is a patron of the arts and donates to the school. For his largess, they offer seats to all the shows before the general public. He snagged one front row center and a ticket right behind….oh what a show.

I felt like a newbie when I heard through pre-concert chatter that everyone around me had seen them multiple times—the chap to my right said he sees them three or four times a year—a modern day Steel Head.

Looking so much older than the photos from their hit albums in the 70’s, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker proved age has no bearing in making awesome music. Backed by a compliment of virtuosos; a horn section that included an Interlochen alumnus—saxophonist Walt Weiskopf, drummer, backing guitar, keyboards and three lovely ladies (The Danettes) singing back-up vocals, the original duo rocked the house for 2 hours playing every hit and then some.

It was a special night that capped off a lovely summer in northern Michigan. Just another secret about Michigan that makes it so special

Walter Becker

Walter Becker

Walter Becker

Walter Becker

Donald Fagen

Donald Fagen

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Donald Fagen

Donald Fagen

 

Thank you and goodnight!

Thank you and goodnight!

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A Masterpiece In The Making? February 29, 2012

Posted by Fritz in Yachts and other things that float.
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Mitt Romney

A big night for Mitt Romney. Winning a close one is his home state of Michigan was far more important than the substantial victory he won in Arizona. The optics of losing your home state would have added an unwanted and unneeded complication to an already hard fight. A fight that has been made difficult by Romney himself. As I said in an earlier post, prior to the primary season kicking off, I believed Romney only had to do two things to lock up the nomination and the presidency; admit RomneyCare was a mistake and pick the right VP running mate.

So far Romney has defended his Massachusetts healthcare mandate and that has killed him with the conservatives. Yes he says he will repeal Obamacare and while that’s enough for me to move on with the issue, it has stuck in the craw of the Tea Party and other hard core conservatives.

Romney’s calculated plan to stay as centrist as possible while trying to win the Right’s nomination is a risky proposition. He is well aware that everything he says and does during the nomination race can and will come back to bite him when Obama unleashes the hounds. Romney and his people know he needs the Independents to break his way by at least 10% if he’s going to have a chance at beating Obama.

It’s a precarious tightrope walk indeed. The fact he hasn’t broken out against the republican challengers is testimony to how close he is to that line. But that is politics. As ugly and unseemly a profession, when done correctly, it can be an art form.

So is Mitt painting a masterpiece or a clever forgery?

Marco Rubio

I recommended Paul Ryan as a running mate in my earlier post. My first choice, Marco Rubio, had already come out strongly against accepting anyone’s VP nod so I left him out. But this is war and we need the best of the best on the field when the battle to beat Obama begins. I think a Romney/Rubio ticket is our best team. I really can’t find any negatives. Rubio brings so much to the table and fills the weak chinks in Romney’s armor (Hispanic vote, Tea Party vote, guaranteed Florida win). Add the fact they both are well spoken, exude confident leadership and they and their families are easy on the eyes and you’ve got a ticket that must be giving David Axelrod some sleepless in Chicago nights.

It’s never over till it’s over but when Mitt accepts the nomination in Tampa this summer and names his running mate, we’ll know if this work in progress is the real deal or just a fancy paint-by- numbers facsimile.

Don’t let this art critic down Mitt.

 

And The Last Shall Be First January 8, 2011

Posted by Fritz in Yachts and other things that float.
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Michigan has been beat down for the past three decades. The culprits are the unions who have rode rough on the entire state. This last election cycle finally produced a conservative majority. With the changing tide, an interesting dynamic has emerged.

Michigan’s power is waxing in Washington; Rep. Fred Upton, 57, who represents southwestern Michigan is poised to direct a new paradigm. With companion Dave Camp, chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. They are part of a Midwestern ascendancy in the House, which also includes Ohio’s John Boehner (speaker), Michigan’s Mike Rogers (chairman of the Intelligence Committee), Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan (chairman of Budget), Minnesota’s John Kline (chairman of Education and Labor), and Missouri’s Sam Graves (chairman of Small Business).

The Midwest has much to lose from Obama’s agenda, particularly his animus against coal, which generates 60 percent of the region’s electricity — 90 percent in Ohio and Indiana. Officials of a steel tank manufacturer in Niles, Mich., recently told Upton that cap-and-trade carbon regulation would have meant an instant 20 percent increase in electricity costs, which would have forced the company to operate only at night in order to take advantage of off-peak rates.

Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/article/Advance-for-Sunday-Jan-9-2011-and-941266.php#ixzz1AUWarI69

 

Own a Lighthouse July 15, 2010

Posted by Fritz in Travel, Yachts and other things that float.
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For virtually all my life my summer home has been up north on the west coast of the lower peninsula of Michigan. My grandparents built a cottage on Crystal Lake back in the 50’s that served as the focal point for my family’s summer rendezvous.

The little town of Frankfort is just five miles away and I consider it my second home. So it was with much interest that I read a news story about one of the city’s icons going up for sale. Frankfort is a port city (town) on Lake Michigan. The town has a long history as a bustling port; even once boasting more millionaires per capita than anywhere in the US. That happened during the logging boom of the middle 1800’s. Northern Michigan’s tall hardwoods supplied the insatiable building appetite in the midwest, especially Chicago after the Great Fire.

The Betsie river flows to Lake Michigan through Betsie Lake which provides a large natural harbor  perfect  for thriving seagoing businesses that include fishing and the shipping of cargo. When the railroads finished a spur line that terminated in the town across the bay from Frankfort, the car ferries began service across Lake Michigan in 1892.

With all this burgeoning shipping traffic, Frankfort harbor was in need of a breakwater to protect the harbors’ entrance from ferocious storms that would invariably blow up throughout the year. Of course once you build a structure out into the lake you had better put a light on the end to keep sailors from running in to it. In the winter of 1866, the Congress appropriated a bill of $90,000 for the construction of the piers. The work was commenced the following year by the Hubbel and Whitwood Company. Soon afterwards the lighthouse was built.” Memo’s of Betsie Bay – A history of Frankfort, by Charles M. Anderson

Frankfort Lighthouse on the north breakwater

That lighthouse has served mariners for over 140 years. The US Coast Guard has been in charge of operating and maintaining her all that time—until now.

From The Detroit Free Press The public may get a chance to buy a Michigan lighthouse if no government or nonprofit organization steps forward to preserve three that the U.S. Coast Guard no longer needs.

The latest round of excess lighthouses includes 11 around the country, three of them in Michigan: The Frankfort North Breakwater Lighthouse, the Middle Island Lighthouse, across Thunder Bay from Alpena, and the South Haven South Pierhead Lighthouse. Lighthouses can come in all shapes and sizes, but these three are all more traditional looking towers.

“I knew this day was coming,” said Josh Mills, Frankfort’s city superintendent. “Obviously, this structure means a lot to this community. It’s a signature structure in our community and we’ll do whatever is necessary to keep it.”

Mills already has talked to the Friends of the Point Betsie Lighthouse, near Frankfort, about taking the breakwater lighthouse under their wings, but hadn’t pressed for a commitment. He will now.

Lighthouse ownership is not an inexpensive proposition. The Frankfort lighthouse needs about $1 million in upgrades to make it a top-notch city attraction, Mills estimated, including restoring a catwalk on the breakwater, out to the lighthouse. The Point Betsie Light preservation group has so far raised $1 million for that structure’s maintenance.

Anybody want to buy a lighthouse?

Frankfort Lighthouse on the north breakwater

Frankfort, MI Part II July 31, 2009

Posted by Fritz in Travel, Yachts and other things that float.
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God’s Country

Change has come slow to this town. While new buildings and businesses have come and gone, the rate and quantity of new things up this way has been pretty lethargic. Depending on who you talk to that’s either a good or bad thing. As a summer resident, I tend to enjoy the slow growth and am glad that the small town charm that makes Frankfort, MI and the surrounding area so appealing has not been compromised. One thing that has changed this summer is the addition of a cruise boat taking passengers out on Lake Michigan on a nearly three hour tour north, towards the Sleeping Bear National Sand Dunes.

Over the winter I had read about the company working on getting the business started  and was pleased to see they had opened for business this summer. I’m impressed that anyone would chance a risky start-up in this economy…especially in Michigan.

A good friend of mine was visiting and I took advantage of one of the perks he enjoys in his profession. He is a tour operator/travel agent and almost always gets free tickets or reduced rates to events or attractions once he identifies himself.

We popped into the cruise lines office just after 10am last Wednesday. The spacious building along Main street once housed the Firestone dealership. The faded outline of the Firestone logo is still very visible across the buildings facade. I’m hoping that if the cruise line has a successful enough year they will splurge and repaint.

We were greeted by Molly who very much looked the nautical part in a crisp white officers shirt complete with epaulets and shoulder bars. She had just finished a phone call recanting sailing schedules and other pertinent information regarding the twice daily cruises. She could not have been nicer and quickly offered us comp tickets once my friend introduced himself as a tour operator. We chose the second or sunset sailing scheduled for 6:30pm. I was impressed that during our 10 minutes or so in the office the phone was constantly ringing and the walk-ins were steady. All good signs for a new business.

Molly offered up what would turn into a good piece of advice; “boarding commences 20 minutes prior to sailing and the top deck fills fast”. The vessel, Miner’s Castle, is a 68′ steel passenger vessel certified for 150. Her twin diesel’s cruises her at 13 knots which allows her to complete the 32 round-trip miles in just under three hours.

M/V Miner's Castle

M/V Miner's Castle

We returned to town just after 6pm to see a growing line of passengers already queuing up to board. Wanting to sit up top we quickly joined the line and once aboard secured prime space along the rail on the port side.

The boat actually departed a few minutes late as the captain held her at the dock to allow the last few stragglers to board. By my estimate we were full. Another good sign for a new business.

On the west coast of northern Michigan, the sun sets well after 9pm for most of the summer. As a young kid this was one of the coolest things about summer. At home bedtime was around 9pm but here we got to stay up much later because it was still light out. Even with the days beginning to get shorter, tonight’s set was around 9:15 so we were able to once again take advantage of being so far north and so far west in the eastern time zone.

Frankfort Bluffs
Frankfort Bluffs

The Miner’s Castle slipped easily away from the dock and out through Frankfort Harbor passing between the north and south breakwalls that protect the harbor’s entrance. We turned right as soon as we cleared the north breakwall and headed along about a quarter mile offshore in 40 feet of water. The bluffs of Frankfort were the first imposing dunes that came before us. Our captain, Dave, began his narration as we cruised  in a gently rolling sea. He expounded on the geological aspects of the dunes as well as passing along area history and the occasional corny joke.

~~~

As a teenager I had explored most of the major dunes from the land side and had my own personal stories relating to one or more of the youthful adventures that had taken place on or about them. They offered a safe haven away from the constraints of parents for all kinds of illegal behaviors and the dunes became our giant playground.

Abby's Bluff Abby’s Bluff

~~~

Point Betsie lighthouse

Point Betsie lighthouse

About 30 minutes into the trip we came upon the most photographed lighthouse in Michigan; Point Betsie. Every cottage within a fifty mile radius surely must have a picture or two of this beautiful structure.

The lighthouse has been recently renovated after it was taken over from the Coast Guard by a non-profit. The work is ongoing but she is open for weekend tours and looks magnificent from the water.

Our trip continued north, passing by the stately summer homes along the shore that included those built within the Crystal Downs Country Club.

Summer cottages

Summer cottages

The clubhouse sits atop the highest point on that particular stretch of dune. This private club boasts a spectacular golf course that is rated perennially in the top ten in the United States.

The sheer distance from Frankfort to the actual Sleeping Bear Dunes would preclude us from getting closer than 6 miles to the jaw dropping edifice that is the largest moving sand dune in the world. So large in fact that it can easily be seen from space.

Sleeping Bear Dunes
Sleeping Bear Dunes

Even at 6 miles away the mass of sand that forms the near 50 degree slope is awesome. We settled for an up close look at the Empire Dunes, the second largest dune, as the Miner’s Castle slowed to make her turn back south.

Empire Bluff dunes
Empire Bluff dunes

By now the sun was nearing the horizon and some stray stratus clouds had drifted between us and the darkening red orb making for a another beautiful northern Michigan sunset.

Of course Dave, our captain, took notice and full credit for the added bonus.  The trip back was far more windy as we now headed into the 10 knot breeze at 13 knots. With the sun going down quickly, the temperature moved about half of the upper deckers to the main deck below. The air temperature was in the mid 60’s and the 23 knot wind chill made it hard to believe it was the 28th of July. We could have used a bit of that Global Warming they say is going around.

Michigan sunset

Michigan sunset

When we arrived back in the harbor, we were surprised to see Molly standing dockside with mooring lines in hand. This woman was fast approaching a 12-hour day. I guess that’s how you succeed in the most economically depressed state in the US, during one of the most difficult financial times in our country’s history.

My buddy and I hung out near the gangway as passengers disembarked. Every comment was positive and genuine; the cruise was a hit. We made sure to thank Molly for the comped tickets and added our glowing review to the others.

I hope Sleeping Bear Dunes Boat Cruises succeeds for many years. It’s a great change for Frankfort; my little slice of God’s Country.

200 hundred year-old trees re-exposed
200 hundred year-old trees re-exposed

~~~

Tickets for the cruise are $33 for adults, children 6-12 are $10 and kids 5 and under are free. The current cruise season began in June and will run to October 18, seven days a week.