My friend Val showed me how valuable it was to include a traveling companion on each of my island research trips. Val accompanied me to her “island of origin” on two of my four trips to Grosse Ile.


Where it all began, on the porch of the Harbour View B&B on Mackinac Island

Initially, when the islands of the Great Lakes Basin began haunting me (after an impromptu happy hour on the porch of a Mackinac Island B&B in 2009), it was easy to put them off. I was routinely working 50+ hours a week, designing and writing training materials for Volkswagen of America. And when I found time to write anything else, I wrote fiction. What could these islands possibly be asking of me?

In the summer of 2011, after 18 months of trying to ignore the call of the islands, I mustered my courage to take a month off work (thank you, Patrick Wyld!) and followed that month with summer weekend trips, managing to escape to a total of 15 Great Lakes Basin (GLB). My objective was to determine what this island project might be.

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My first pilot island trip included viewing the Livingstone Memorial Lighthouse on Belle Isle in Detroit, MI.

Beginning with Belle Isle, the most accessible GLB island to me and where my book launch will be, I made 15 “testing the water” island trips.

I visited Grosse Ile, the island where Val grew up, twice alone during this pilot phase of my project. From the beginning, I had an inkling Grosse Ile might hold a key in determining what my island project would be. After my solo pilot trips, I decided to use Grosse Ile as the subject of the sample chapter of the book proposal I wrote in 2012.


Thorofare Canal divides the largest island of Grosse Ile Township into two.

Val and I went to Grosse Ile  on two consecutive weekends in April of 2012, so I could get the chapter format right.


The twin surprise that met us as we pedaled our bikes over a dip on Grosse Ile.

Among the discoveries I made on the island was that of understanding the value of a second pair of eyes and ears through which to filter an island trip.

On each of the research trips to the 136 Great Lakes Basin islands, accessible by ferry or bridge, I took a friend or family member. Having paid tribute to my family members last week, today I’d like to honor the 20 friends who shared adventures with me on the islands of the Sweet Seas (La Mer Douce, the sweet or freshwater sea, was the French explorers’ name for Lake Huron, the first of the Great Lakes to be discovered by Europeans).

Our island adventures provided perfect opportunities to experience such sweet, Sweet Seas of friendship:

  • Valerie Overholt: Grosse Ile, April 20 and 26, 2012;  Beausoleil Island, and, also in the Honey Harbour area, Picnic Island, Brandy’s Island, and Potato Island, May 31–June 3, 2013
  • Susan Eggly: Catawba Island and Johnson’s Island, May 25–26, 2013
  • Bronwen Gates: Presqu’ile, Ontario, Prince Edward County, Big Island, Baker Island, Amherst Island, Howe Island, Hill Island, and Wellesley Island, June 9–14, 2013
  • Karen Klein: Door Peninsula, Washington Island, and Rock Island, June 20–24, 2013
  • Kim Haas: Kelleys Island, June 28–30, 2013
  • Jan Prater: Beaver Island, July 14‒18, 2011, and July 3–7, 2013
  • Barbara Osher: Bois Blanc Island, July 8–11, 2013
  • Judy Wachler: the Toronto Islands of Centre Island (including the Ward’s Island community and and Hanlan’s Point), Middle Island, Olympic Island, the “Duck Pond” Island, South Island, Algonquin Island, South Chippewa Island, Snake Island, RCYC Island, and South Island, July 13–14, 2013
  • Michelene Eberhard: downtown Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan (aka “The Island”), North St. Marys Island, South St. Marys Island, Whitefish Island, and Sugar Island, July 19–21, 2013
  • Nanci Baldridge: Grand Island, Beaver Island, Buckhorn Island, Unity Island (known at the time of our visit as Squaw Island), Tonawanda Island, Green Island, Goat Island, the Three Sister Islands (Asenath Island, Angeline Island, and Celinda Eliza Island), Luna Island, Cuyaga Island, and the Dufferin Islands, August 15–18, 2013
  • Vicki Brennan: Grand Island, Madeline Island, and Isle Royale, August 21–28, 2013
  • Barbara Lelli: Hamilton Island, the 13 Long Sault Islands (McLaren Island, Woodlands Island, which is actually two islands, Fraser Island, Hoople Island, Dickinson Island, Heriot Island, VanKoughnet Island, Phillpotts Island, Macdonell Island, Mille Roches Island, Snetsinger Island, Moulinette Island), Morrison Island, Nairne Island, Ault Island, Cornwall Island, Barnhart Island, and Wilson Hill Island, September 13–16, 2013
  • Jeanne Seymour: Flowerpot Island, Manitoulin Island, Barrie Island, Twilight Isle, Burnt Island, Goat Island, Great LaCloche Island, September 25–30, 2013; also Russell Island, July 2011
  • Lynn Tiessen: Mackinac Island, October 3–6, 2013
  • Pamela Mitzelfeld: Pelee Island, October 18–20, 2013
  • Carol Boyd: Harsens Island, June 3–4, 2014
  • Lucinda Garthwaite: Wolfe Island, Simcoe Island, and Heart Island, June 19–22, 2014.
  • Kathy Wildfong: South Manitou Island and North Manitou Island, July 11–15, 2014
  • Nancy Lockhart: the Les Cheneaux Islands of Hill Island and Island No. 8, Drummond Island, Neebish Island, Little Neebish Island (aka Rains Island), Pine Island, Brown’s Island, Bamford Island, St. Joseph Island, Campment d’Ours Island, Munroe Islands, Twyning Islands, July 21–26, 2014
  • Carol Breitmeyer: South Bass Island, Middle Bass Island, and Gibraltar Island, July 28–31, 2014.

Each one of these friends helped make my book—to be released a week from today—what it became. Thank you, dear friends. You made our adventures ones of friendship as well as islands!

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