Northern Michigan’s Summer Power Zone

Northern Michigan Living: Meet Traverse Citians Mike and Kirstin Gorney.

By workday, he’s a technical consultant for a medical device company, and she’s a financial controller. But come summertime Fridays at 5 p.m., they drive two miles to their boat at its slip in Elmwood Marina on West Grand Traverse Bay, head below for a quick change and voilà, conversion complete. Flip-flop-and-sunglasses-ready for a weekend where water, boats and weather shape the central decision: Is this a Power Island weekend? Power Island, because that’s where boats of all manner—power, sail, kayak and board—gather on blue-sky, West Bay summer days. The shores and waters encircling Power Island become a little world within a world where the best of the season is distilled and enjoyed, the essence and vapors of summer inhaled and absorbed by those who make the watery crossing.

So who doesn’t want more of that? We turned to the experts, checking in with Mike and Kirstin to get the inside story. How does that boating culture work? What are your easy go-to grill recipes? What about beverages? And gear? And most of all, how do the dogs fit in? Here then, is the Mike and Kirstin summertime primer on the ultimate way to live summer weekends by the water. BTW, if you have a vague or even acute sense that these people are living a little larger than you are, consider them your mentors, your advisors, your spirit guides to a better, funner summertime gestalt.

Kirstin tells how a typical summer Saturday goes:

The first thing we do on Saturday morning is determine if it’s a Power Island day or not. We make that call by 9 or 10 in the morning and it’s all based on the weather. We check NOAA’s weather radio station or the marine radio. If the weather’s right, we call or text some of our friends to meet us at our boat. There are about four couples who are usually willing to go. Once they arrive, we boat over to Clinch Park Marina, where we know people who have slips on the F Dock. We call them the F Dockers. We do a drive-by, calling out to everybody. “We’re going to the island. We’ll meet you out there!

”We take our time motoring out to the island. It’s not quite seven miles out there. We’ll stop and take turns being pulled on the tube. At Power Island, people without kids anchor to the right of the big dock there, and people with kids anchor on the left where there’s a sandy beach. We anchor in water that’s about waist deep, so it’s easy to get in and out of the water, and it makes it easy to get the dogs on and off the boat.

When the other boats start to arrive, we tie up together. Sometimes there’re four boats, but on a big summer weekend we might have 10 or 12. People hop from boat to boat and the main goal is for everybody to be in the water playing and floating in inner tubes. [Important note to the summer challenged: see how the “main goal” is not mowing the lawn, vacuuming the car or painting the porch—it’s getting everybody into an inner tube.] The dogs are in there with us too because they love the water. We play music—my husband is one of those people who has to have a good stereo in the boat. And around dinnertime we grill. Everybody loves Mike’s bacon-wrapped pheasant on the grill, so we pass around a plate of those. We have a guy in the group who makes great margaritas, so he’s the margarita boat. That sort of thing.

My favorite time of the day is about 6:30. The sun just feels really good at that time. The day is done. You’ve eaten and are feeling good. You are super, super relaxed, and you are like ahhh. [A question to the summer challenged: how often are you “like ahhh”?]

And then, not too long after that, we head home. That’s a Power Island day.

So there you have it. Advice from the Zen-of-Summer masters. Be like them. Be “like ahhh.” Specific tips now follow in the next pages. 

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