Friday, September 14, 2012

Pentwater, Grand Haven and South Haven, Michigan

August 18-21, 2012

Our last night in Frankfort was blissfully surge-free and we had a much-needed good night’s sleep. Over the next few days we would travel more than 160 miles down the coast, a faster pace than we anticipated.  But just as bad weather can impact our cruising plans, so can good weather. It’s hard to pass up an opportunity to keep moving in calm seas when we know Lake Michigan is capable of stirring up uncomfortable situations with little warning.

Our next destination was Pentwater, just over 60 nautical miles from Frankfort. We hoped the weather would hold and that we’d be able to make it that far, but just in case, I charted the harbors at Manistee and Ludington, also.  But we had smooth sailing all the way.  Once again, our trip took us along huge sand dunes and more lighthouses (this one is Big Sable Point).

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We arrived in Pentwater at about 12:30 p.m.  Like so many of the shore towns, Pentwater is situated on a smaller inland lake connected to Lake Michigan by a long channel.  There were sailboat races underway as we entered Pentwater Lake.IMG_7912 IMG_7913 

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We were assigned to an end dock at Snug Harbor Marina, which gave us a perfect on-off situation for the dogs (people, too!).  There was a small park with picnic tables right next to the boats, a very pleasant setting.

After lunch, we helped Marc’s Ark tie up and the four of us took a walk through the town.  Such a pretty little town, and I’m surprised I had never heard of it before this. We found a most unusual marine store called the Brass Anchor that had an incredible amount of nautical gear crammed into a small space.  I bought a bottle of something that’s supposed to remove spider poop from white fiberglass, a big problem since we’ve been in Michigan.


We also found the local ice cream shop, of course, and stopped to watch a dog show taking place in the town green.  There was a terrific food market right next to the marina where we bought steaks and shrimp that we grilled and ate at the picnic table next to the boat.  Marc and Michele came over after dinner and we enjoyed another glass of wine, watching the stars come out over the harbor. We all agreed that Pentwater was a really nice surprise and a place we could have enjoyed for a second day.  But the weather forecast continued to be promising, so we charted a course to Grand Haven for the next morning.

As soon as we entered the channel leading to the Grand Haven harbor, we wished we had stayed in Pentwater.  It was a Sunday, so the channel and harbor were full of pleasure boaters and charter fishing boats, and it felt busy and chaotic. There is a large Coast Guard station in the channel, and a sign on the hill across from the municipal marina that proclaims it “Coast Guard City, USA.”

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Marc’s Ark pulled in about an hour after we did.  We also met several new-to-us Loopers, including Karen Anne, Jet Stream and Loopy Kiwi.

We went out to dinner with Marc and Michelle, and afterwards we all sat on our sundeck to watched the illuminated Musical Fountain that was just opposite our boat under the Coast Guard USA sign.  This nightly 20-minute show has been presented every summer from May through September since 1964, and it is billed as the largest musical fountain in the world.  The synchronized music changes every night. It was pretty impressive and certainly the highlight of our visit to Grand Haven.


We are sure we would have enjoyed Grand Haven much more if we had been there on a weekday, instead of a busy weekend. But in the morning we were ready to head for our next stop, South Haven.

South Haven was a real treat, a perfect stop for boaters. It is located on the Black River, which is lined with marinas on both sides.  In many ways it has the look of a New England village.

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It also has extensive walking/biking paths along the river. We docked at the municipal marina and got our bikes down right away.  We rode several blocks to a hot dog emporium called Capt’n Weiner’s and took a couple of loaded hot dogs and cokes to the beach, right around the corner.  The clear water of Lake Michigan continues to amaze!

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After lunch we rode our bikes to the Michigan Maritime Museum, which has a number of good displays focused on the nautical history and culture of the Great Lakes. They have one of the old traditional fishing tugs that were used on the lakes. We have seen a few of them still in action, especially up in Georgian Bay.  It was interesting to be able to look around inside one of them.

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They also had a very good special exhibit about the War of 1812, whose path we have been following since we started our trip in the Chesapeake. This particular exhibit did a nice job of presenting a balanced view of the American, British and Canadian perspectives on this war that most of us don’t know much about. (Other than Dolly Madison rescuing George Washington's portrait from the burning White House.)

Marc’s Ark had visitors that night, two of Michele’s sisters, Sherry and Denise, who drove over from the Chicago area. Sherry had business in the area the next day, but Denise planned to cruise with Marc and Michele to New Buffalo the following morning. We enjoyed meeting them.


We opted for another day in South Haven.  It was a really nice town and we felt we needed a day to catch up on boat chores.  Plus, several more Looper boats were due in that day, including Next To Me, whom we hadn’t seen since Norfolk! That night we had a big docktail gathering in the marina lounge and toasted Roger and Karen on Karen Anne, who would cross their wake the next day when they returned to Michigan City, Indiana.  Congratulations, Roger and Karen – very nice people, and we’re sorry we didn’t meet them until just before they completed their Loop.

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We heard from Marc’s Ark that the marina in New Buffalo was very shallow and may not have enough water for us.  Looking at the weather forecast, it appeared the next day might be the last good day on the lake for awhile.  So we decided to skip our planned stop in New Buffalo and head straight across the lake the next morning to Chicago – 75 miles across open water!  It would be one of those days when we are grateful for our fast trawler!

Next, our home town, Chicago!

(Real time update: As of September 14, we are still in Green Turtle Bay on Lake Barkley in Kentucky, enjoying this lovely area with several other Loopers – Next To Me, Muriel June, Wind Song, Time & Tide.)

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