Even as you read this column, the Apling clan of Manitou Beach, Mich., is well under way on a late summer water adventure, boating along the entire 1,450-mile Great Lakes shoreline of lower Michigan aboard a tri-tube pontoon craft.
Dave Apling and his wife, Donna, and son and daughter-in-law, Pat and Laurie, left New Buffalo, Ind., on the Indiana/Michigan line on Sunday and motored as far as Saugatuck, Mich., on the Lake Michigan coastline by nightfall.
They set out "for points north" from Saugatuck yesterday morning, said Mike Apling, who with his wife, Liz, will trade places with Pat and Laurie at Harbor Springs in northern Lake Michigan.
They will continue with his parents through the Straits of Mackinac and down the Lake Huron shoreline, across Saginaw Bay and around the Thumb to the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River and down Lake Erie to trip's end at Toledo Beach, just north of Toledo. The sons are exchanging roles on board so at least one of them can mind the family business, Devils Lake Water Sports.
"Everything is going well," Mike said yesterday afternoon, after cell-phone contact with the boat earlier in the day. But he said that the seafaring party encountered waves to six feet on Sunday.
Yesterday's ride was smoother under calmer seas. In all it is expected that the trip will take the family seven to eight days, depending on weather and sea conditions.
"We've always wanted to do something with the wives," said Dave on the eve of their departure Saturday.
Twice previously he, his sons and some friends have taken a tri-tube pontoon craft to Florida from Michigan. In 2001 they embarked on a 2,400-mile, 21-day adventure from Mackinac Island through Lakes Huron and Erie, the Erie Canal, Hudson River and Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway to Marco Island, Fla.
Then in 2004 they motored 1,600 miles from Lake Michigan to Marco Island via Lake Michigan, the Chicago Ship Canal, and the Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee rivers and Tombigbee Waterway to the Gulf of Mexico, then around to Marco Island.
The elder Apling said that pontoon boats have come a long way in a few years in terms of big-water and long-range capability. Their present boat, a 27-foot Crest built in Owosso, Mich., is a bit shorter than the 30-footers they used previously, but it features a much more integrated design.
"It's totally stocked," said Apling. "You can buy one, put some gas in it, and do what we're doing. A lot of people on Lake Erie are going for them now. You could go anywhere in them. You could go to Buffalo and then on to New York City via the Erie Canal and Hudson River."
New models, for example, feature built-in, long-range fuel tanks, one placed inside the center pontoon tube and the other in the transom, both set to balance out the hull. The tubes also are tapered from 26-inch diameter at the stern to 24 inches at the bow, and have lifting strakes fitted to the sides.
Such design "helps lift the hull onto plane so the boat runs flatter," said Dave. "It runs more on top of the water and decreases resistance.
"For your horsepower you're getting more speed, more performance."
Speaking of horsepower, the boat is driven by the latest 250-hp Mercury Verado, a supercharged, four-stroke monster of an outboard that will cruise the craft at 30 to 33 mph.
"The part I like is being with the two boys and seeing what's around the next corner [of land]," said Dave, noting that the float plan was to maintain sight of the scenic shoreline at all times. "Some of that shoreline, I've never seen it."
Friday is opening day of several hunting seasons in Ohio, including squirrel, dove and early Canada goose.
The Ohio Division of Wildlife has forecast excellent dove and goose hunting prospects. Squirrel prospects are good, given a bumper crop of acorns a year ago, which indicates good numbers of gray squirrels in the southeast and south-central regions and good numbers of fox squirrels, especially in northeast, central, and western regions.
Seasons for moorhen and rail also open on Friday, and the special early teal season opens Saturday and continues through Sept. 17.
A new apprentice license allows new hunters, adult or youth, to sample the experience under the mentorship of a licensed hunter before completing a hunter education course.
A resident adult license costs $19. Those hunting waterfowl also must purchase a federal duck stamp and an Ohio Wetlands Habitat Stamp, each $15. The latter appears as an endorsement on the license, with actual stamps mailed later. Waterfowl hunters also need to fill out the Harvest Information Program or HIP provisions on their licenses at purchase.
Licenses are available at 1,200 vendors around the state or on-line at www.ohiodnr.com/wildlife.
Other details on the seasons are available in the digest, 2006-2007 Ohio Hunting Regulations, available free where licenses are sold, on-line at the state Web site, or by calling 1-800-WILDLIFE.