Boat Week: The Port Huron to Mackinac Sailboat Race
Check your riggings and get ready to hoist the mainsail. Boat Week is less than a month away. Mark your calendars for the 88th sailing of the race that attracts sailors from all over the world. Sailboats of every size and shape will line up for the starting gun at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 14th as they set course for Mackinac Island.
Michigan's Sunrise Coast offers festivities too grand to be corralled in a day. Boat Week brings fun for more than 100,000 visitors to the area. The annual celebration kicks off mid-week. Think floats, marching bands, live entertainment, and plenty of amber flowing beer. Thursday is Family Night: carnival rides, clowns, live music. Friday is Boat Night with additional live music, but a decidedly adult flavored craziness.
Pulling under the Blue Water Bridge to get into position.
An entrant from the 2011 race.
Last year we watched the Parade of Boats headed for the starting line just north of the Blue Water Bridge. Our vantage point for the entertainment was the Fort Gratiot Light Station where the Port Huron Museum sponsored a catered breakfast, live music, marine art show, and games. The highlight of the morning was Captain Jack Sparrow, a swashbuckling local who is a dead ringer for the Johney Depp version - right down to the irresistible grin.
Staking out our place early.
Breakfast as we watch the boats pull into place.
Catching up with the Johnny Depp look alike.
The fun doesn’t end after the boats have vanished from sight. When you are ready to move on, you owe it to yourself to spend the rest of Saturday shopping some of Port Huron's quaint stores. We own a condo in the First Resort North (Lexington) and I, unabashedly and unapologetically, recommend two hometown favorites that have opened second locations in Port Huron. Weekends in the City, 406 Water Street, is a marvelous addition to the Port Huron scene. You'll find souvenirs and postcards of the area, but it's likely to be the household and gift items that you can't resist.
The Lexington version of the General Store, now with a second location at 902 Military, Port Huron, has been popular with me for years. It still lures my granddaughters to its candy counter. I promise you the caramels are the best I buy anywhere, and the chocolate covered cashews are plain sinful. Besides satisfying your sweet tooth, you can browse an eclectic selection of kitchen gadgets and memorabilia.
Cap’n Jim’s Gallery is a must during a weekend that features boats and boat lore. Cap’n Jim’s marine art is a perfect backdrop to Boat Week. You’ll peruse paintings of Great Lakes ships and also find books on maritime
Saturday night brings the Parade of Lights, a new addition (2010) to Boat Week. The first year 60 decorated boats glided from under the 10th Street Bridge, on the Black River, and headed out to the St. Clair River and back. You’ll see sailboats, powerboats, tugs and pontoons dressed to the hilt for their special moment of glory. Sunday prizes are presented to the best decorated boat.
For any spare moments you can manage during the frenzy of activity, Port Huron has museums to rival those of much larger cities. The Port Huron Museum (1115 Sixth Street), the Thomas Edison Depot Museum (beneath the Blue Water Bridge on Thomas Edison Parkway), the Bramble, a retired U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (2336 Military) and the Huron Lightship for nautical artifacts (Pine Grove Park), all merit a bit of time.
Vantage Point Great Lakes Maritime Center, located at the foot of Water Street, offers a viewing room where visitors can see what’s happening from webcams all over the Great Lakes. It would make a perfect stop on Sunday afternoon. Maybe relax with a cup of coffee, grab fries from the French Fry Truck, or an ice cream cone, and talk a bit about boating. Someone will surely have an update of the race status.
One last stop before you leave town: Studio 1219 (1219 Military), a community gallery that displays over 1500 pieces of art produced by more than 200 local artists.
You will leave exhausted, but with enough memories to sustain you until next year. Enjoy!
Julie Albrecht Royce, Travel Adventures Editor, is the author of Traveling Michigan's Sunset Coast and Traveling Michigan's Thumb, both published by Thunder Bay Press. She writes a monthly column for wanderingeducators.com.
All photos courtesy and copyright Julie and Bob Royce
Feature photo: Up close and personal with Captain Jack Sparrow.