Our captain, Dave, and crew members Jim and Anna, were terrific. The evening started around 4pm with a relaxing one-hour boat ride to Big Charity Island. We were offered cold drinks and served cheese and crackers. The sea hosts were excellent and we had a wonderful ride. Bob Wiltse, resident and lighthouse home owner, greeted us as we docked. Next, we enjoyed a short walk on a sandy trail and discovered a statue in the forest. Those who did not wish to walk were offered a ride in a giant wagon (reminded me of a hayride). Karen Wiltse welcomed us to her house and let us into her home to use the restrooms or relax with an ice cold glass of lemonade. Those of us on the East Tawas ferryboat went and sat on the deck for Bob's history presentation. Bob shared terrific stories, with an obvious passion for research, that kept the audience interested. He sure did talk fast during the 45 min talk. The lighthouse was built in 1885 and he shared stories from 1885 to present day. The coolest thing was when he showed us some the of rounded rocks and told us they were flint. Those resembled the same rocks that Karen and I saw while swimming close to Charity the weekend before. She picked one that looked like a hockey puck and put it in her wetsuit, before we swam back to shore. Big Charity Island, actually a large outcropping of limestone, is roughly 300 acres with over 3 miles of Lake Huron shoreline and it even has an inland lake. They say you can wade the two miles from Big Charity to 5-acre Little Charity Island.
After the fabulous presentation, we switched places with the Caseville ferryboat passengers, and headed to the porch of the lightkeeper's house for dinner. Seated overlooking the Bay, we ate sauteed tenderloin beef tips or lightly breaded lake perch, crunchy bread, roasted redskin potatoes and a warm slaw salad. After dinner, Karen gave us a tour of her house, including the cool basement, which has sections of original limestone walls. We spent some time exploring the shore and Noah climbed to the top of the lighthouse. Before we left, Karen and I traded new t-shirts. I have a new yellow Charity Island shirt and she has a blue "in pursuit" of the English Channel shirt. When Captain Dave (who was also a dinner chef besides our captain) rang the bell, it was time to head back to the Shirley Ann. We enjoyed a slower, gorgeous sunset cruise with a sliver of strawberry cheesecake and hot coffee. Passengers and crew sang 'Happy Birthday' to another woman and I, who shared the special day.
Looking back at the 16-mile Charity Island Swim (July 10, 2011), I'm so thankful my wonderful crew (family and friends) kept me energized and spirited to swim somewhere new. I remember when I reached the familiar US Gypsum crib, just 2.5 mi from the lakehouse, thinking that maybe we should just turn around and stay in calmer, more familiar water. I was getting tossed around like a pair of socks tumbling in a dryer and was watching my crew rise and fall like the old Pirate Ship ride in Ontario's (Canada) Boblo Island. Without the courage to lose sight of the shore, I wouldn't have discovered Charity Island, a "Pure Michigan" gem.
Speaking of charity swims, on July 26, I will be swimming 14+ miles across Lake St. Clair from the southeast tip of Gull Island to the Grosse Point Yacht Club with Ric Geyer and the gang from last year, to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Please check in again to see how it went or visit Ric's blog "Swimming St. Clair."