Sunday: A beautiful day for a 40 nautical mile cruise. First we must wait for Jack Witt (owner of Snug Harbor Marina) to arrive with the package he picked up for us at Walgreen’s in Ludington. He said he would be here by 9:40 am and he shows up right on time. So we are prepared for a 10:00 am departure from the docks.
Jack helps Tracy with the lines off Kailani first, then goes over to Sea Cottage and helps with their lines. Our cruise time today is estimated at five hours and it turns out rather boring. Not due to the length, it just works out to be rather blah for scenery except for one area that is interesting, otherwise it’s more sand dunes and coastline cottages (5,000 sf cottages!).
The interesting area is Silver Lake State Park Off-Road Vehicle Area. Look it up on Google Maps, that’s the official name of the area! Anyway, this place is loaded with vehicles running in all different directions in the sand, up the dunes, down the dunes, across the dunes, etc. It’s just a spectacular site for 11:00 am on a sunny Sunday morning. Its fun to watch and cruising at 9 knots, we’re able to watch for quite some time as this tract of sand is probably two miles long along the coast.
The entire cruise today is following the coast just outside the shallow water, so we’re never more than a half a mile off shore the entire cruise. Eventually we are approaching a familiar vessel and I radio Tom aboard Careb to say good morning and let him know that we still have plans for a golf date if we can work out common ports and good weather. His transmission is running flawless now since the work at Shepler’s Marine and he’s a solo cruiser, so it’s good to chat with him and let him know he’s not alone out here.
Our marina, Hartshorn Municipal Marina is about three miles in from the inlet on Muskegon Lake and by 12:15pm we are approaching the break walls for the start of the inlet. This is a very beautiful Sunday in mid September, so needless to say, there’s lots of boat traffic here today. Just north of the inlet, there are about thirty boats pulled up on shore or anchored just off shore so people can enjoy the sixty nine degree waters of Lake Michigan. But the main vessel traffic seems to be right in the middle of the channel entering Muskegon Lake. I lose count, but there has to be at least seventy five to one hundred boats of all shapes and sizes entering and leaving the inlet. It’s the perfect situation for why the ‘navigational rules of the road’ were written. Unfortunately, too many boaters have not read this document even though the supposition os that you must read and know them to operate a vessel on the waters, both inland and international waters. Oh well, we just take our time, settle into the line of vessels entering the channel and slow to idle/no wake speed.
In addition to the nearly one hundred vessels motoring along this channel, there are three vessels anchored, a research vessel, a coast guard vessel, and a World War II submarine (museum). Just after passing these three vessels and still in the channel as we’re idling behind two Scarab boats, a charter fishing vessel comes flying past us between Kailani and the channel wall and slips in between the Scarabs and us!!! He must have lots of fish to clean once he gets to the dock or something.
After successfully and safely navigating the inlet channel, we are in Muskegon Lake and headed towards our marina two miles in on the lake. We radio the marina and two deck hands are at slip 60 to receive the lines from Tracy and by 1:00 pm we are safely tied up and electric is connected. We docked bow in so we would have a starboard tie-up on this slip, so I move the power cords to the mid-ship starboard connections so the cords reach the dockside power tower. However it’s not until at least an hour later that I realize that I didn’t flip the switch on our circuit panel to let the panel know we were getting our source from the starboard connections rather than the stern connections. Oh well, one more thing for our checklist to remember.
Muskegon has virtually nothing to offer here where we are located except the USS LST-393 which I will be visiting in the morning before we chose off tomorrow. LST stands for ‘Landing Ship Tank’ and there are only two LST’s remaining from World War II and one of them is right here in Muskegon. So we relax for the rest of the day, Tracy fishes (duh!) and we turn in just before 11:00 pm.
Monday: Our plan is to move again today to Grand Haven. It’s simply a 16 nautical mile journey , but first, everyone will wait for me to visit the LST-393 before our departure. The museum opens at 10:00 am so I start waking over at 9:30am and I’m in the parking lot waiting for them to open by 9:50 am and there are several volunteers milling about with a few other cars in the visitors lot.
At precisely 10:00 am nothing happens! The gate doesn’t open, the volunteers don’t come out and open the ticket booth, nothing!!! So by 9:15am I’m talking with the other visitors trying to figure out what happens next and a couple come walking out of the staff exit, so we call over to them and ask if they know when the museum will open, to which they respond that the museum is closed and yesterday was the last day for the season! So not able to view the LST which was the only reason I opted to come to Muskegon, I sadly walk back to Kailani, tell my story to Tracy and then we prepare for departure.
As mentioned, today is just a short 16 mile cruise down the eastern shore of the lake to Grand Haven and our next stop at Grand Haven Municipal Marina. By 11:20am we’re backing out of our slip and headed out into Muskegon Lake towards the inlet. This being a weekday in September, the lake and the inlet are nearly empty compared to yesterday and we just have to maneuver around a few small fishing boats to get out into the lake. As we’re avoiding two small fishing boats, the fisherman in one of the boats has his rod bent into the water and he’s wrangling with a nice size salmon. Yes the elusive salmon that Tracy’s been trying to lure into her net! In no time we’re out on the lake and the seas are nice and calm today. 2 hours and 10 minutes later, we’re tied up at Grand Haven Municipal and we’re right next to Sum Escape. Tom and Julie just crossed their wake four days ago and now they’re hanging out here in their home port until they are hauled out for the winter in a couple of weeks.
After Kailani and Sea Cottage are all tied up, we get ready for a trip to the local Walmart for groceries and various sundries. Erik, Jen, Tracy and I are all set and I call for an Uber and seven minutes later Tom shows up to drive us to the Walmart about three miles away. On the way we’re talking with him and determine that it’ll be less hard for us to get an Uber ride back to the marina after shopping because he is out of Muskegon and just happen to be here in Grand Haven dropping off a rider just as we were requesting a ride. He said that he didn’t know of any Uber drivers based out of Grand Haven so we could surely try afterwards, but we probably wouldn’t have much luck. We tried to convince him to stay and wait for us to shop, even to the point of asking him if there was any shopping he needs to do at Walmart to justify waiting, but it was to no avail, he dropped us off and left for the return trip to Muskegon.
We spent ninety minutes and six times that in total goods before we were back outside requesting a ride on the Uber app and just as suggested earlier by Tim, there were no drivers to accept our request. So we called Rich’s Taxi and soon Rich and his wife were pulling up with an older model Dodge Minivan with ample room for the four of us and all our bags of goods.
Fifteen minutes later we were all settled into the marina and Tracy was working on tonight’s gourmet meal of Shrimp Scampi and garlic bread. The plan was to have dinner ready for 7:30 pm then eat aboard Sea Cottage while watching the first half of ‘Gone With the Wind’. The plan worked out perfectly as Tracy cooked up a delicious meal and the movie played on Erik’s DVD player for the entire two hours without stopping, shutting off, or losing audio. That’s a first for us watching videos aboard Sea Cottage. After the first half was over it was agreed that tomorrow night the Strasels will prepare dinner and we’ll watch the exciting conclusion of ‘Gone With the Wind’. Then we returned to Kailani, I set up the auto-brew for the morning and we turned in.
Tuesday: As predicted yesterday, the weather is holding out for us and today we have planned another relatively short jump of 27 nautical miles to Saugatuck where we have reservations at the Coral Gables Marina. We have planned this so just in case the weather turns bad, we’re far enough up the Kalamazoo River that winds and waves off the lake will not affect us in the slips.
We agree with Sea Cottage on a 10:00 am departure and Tracy takes us off the dock at 9:50am and through the inlet into Lake Michigan. The winds are light and variable while the waves are 1-2 feet, but they’re coming out of the northeast, so as we turn to head south to Saugatuck, the waves are hitting us on the stern starboard quarter (right rear of the vessel). So we get rocked around for the three hour cruise, but it’s all manageable and soon we’re turning into Saugatuck inlet and cruising the Kalamazoo River towards Coral Gables Marina. We’ve had experience (both good and bad) stopping at locations where there’s dock space run by a hotel, motel, restaurant, etc. so we’re ready for anything today, but as we approach, we’re met by Larry the Coral Gables Manager and he’s a licensed Captain who’s made the voyages of the great loop many times moving boats north and south for customers and he knows boats and dock lines, so it’s very smooth pulling into our slip and getting all tied up. This is a pleasant surprise to us both and he even lets us know there is a truck with the keys in it if we need a vehicle and if we need a pump out, he’ll call an offsite truck to come in and pump us out. So the pleasant surprises continue. Or we could take on of these lil nifty retro boats! I want the pink one!- tc
After we’re all tied up and utilities connected, we spend a few minutes washing the boat, then relax for the afternoon.
Tonight is dinner on Sea Cottage with the Strasels catering (meatballs over rice) this time. We have a delicious dinner and watch part 2 of ‘Gone with the Wind’ and now I can say that I’ve begun watching Oscar winning movies with Tracy. Before we left she asked me to make an effort to watch as many Oscar winners as we could get our hands on while we are on this adventure. It was an idea by her as a way to pass some time during the voyage and now, nearly halfway complete, we’ve started. Hey, we might be slow, but we get there.
Wednesday: We have forty miles today so we agree on a 9:00 am departure from Coral Gables and right at 9:00am Tracy is backing Kailani out of slip 14 and onto the Kalamazoo River headed for the Saugatuck Inlet. Once we’re out into Lake Michigan, we’re confronted with slightly heavy fog in all directions. With me at the helm, I check with Sea Cottage and ask if they want me to lead us in a straight line to St Joseph which will take us out of sight of land, or would they rather I follow the land contour and keep land within our sight based on the fog visibility. They let us know they’d rather keep land in sight, so I divert from the proper heading and with the radar showing me the contour of the coastline, I keep land within sight and maintain a heading that parallels the shoreline no matter where it may take us. In reality, we’re only going to add about 15 minutes to our cruise with this strategy, but it will keep the entire entourage more comfortable in the long run.
I turn our VHF radio to the weather station and surprisingly, they are reporting that there are no hazards to navigation in lower Lake Michigan. Are we on some different planet?? Oh well after about two hours of half to three quarters of a mile visibility, the fog banks lift and we have clear sailing to St Joseph. At least as far as visibility is concerned, we still have waves out of the northeast hitting us on or stern quarter and we’re riding them like a mechanical bull as we work the helm to stay on course.
The cruise time works out very well and by 1:30pm we’re pulling up to the pump out dock for a pump out prior to settling into our slip. We decided to get this pump out just in case we’re held up here for the supposed three days waiting for another good weather day. We only have two more cruise days to get to Chicago so we’re in great shape timing wise. There’s no need to push past a bad weather day.
After our pump out we pull into our slip and soon we’re all secure with power hooked up and our bow is nearly thirty feet from the marina office, so we’re convenient to everything from this slip. We converse with the crew of Sea Cottage and decide that we will stay here until better weather because the next stop, Michigan City, is not as active a location as this one and if we’re going to get held up for weather, there’s more to do here than in Michigan City. So we get comfortable for what might be a couple of days waiting for safe cruising weather. We’ve cruised for five consecutive days and 156 nautical miles, so relaxing for a day or two or three is well earned.
Thursday: A day in port even though the weather fared well today. Since we’re in for the day, I bring out the griddle and make a nice breakfast of sausage links and French toast. After breakfast, we make arrangements with the crew of Sea Cottage to go check out the local candy store, Wolf’s Marine. The manager of the store Rich comes down to pick us up and soon we’re talking the aisles of Wolf’s Marine checking out the goods. Sea Cottage finds a few items and Tracy and I find a few and Rich is there to drive us back to the marina. It’s nice when retail stores provide this service to liveaboard boaters passing thru.
Later in the day, Tracy and I put on our bathing suits and walk to the beach on the shores of Lake Michigan. The sand on the beaches here is so silky smooth, its really nice to walk on the beaches. But today’s temperature is right up around 85 degrees, so we figure the water should be tolerable and if not, we’ll just sit in the sun and read. Besides tomorrow will be the last full day of summer, so we’ve got to get our licks in while we can.
Once we’re on the beach, we walk into the water only to find that the water temperature is not as warm as we’d expected it to be, but we still walk in up to about our waists, hang around in the water for a while, then return to the blanket for some sun. There are a very few other sun worshippers on the beach today and none of them are really dipping their toes in the lake either.
We walk back to Kailani, have some burgers for dinner, then return to Sea Cottage to watch the last half hour of the movie we started the previous night.
Friday: Day one of the St Joseph Fall Sidewalk Sales and we get a ride from Andrew of the Marina staff to downtown. He drops us off on State Street and we walk around to a few stores, do some Christmas shopping for kids and stop at Burgers & Brews for lunch.
Then we walk some of the town where statues and commemorative artwork is displayed, mostly along the St Joseph River. As we’re walking along the river we notice that Careb is tied up on the wall, but Tom must be somewhere in town because he’s not aboard. We call the Marina and Steve comes out to pick us up for the return trip to West Basin.
Saturday: We expect that today will be our last day here in St Joseph, so with plans to complete some chores aboard Kailani we step outside to start our day and see that Careb is in the marina. Tom had finally decided to recharge his batteries with shore power after being on the river wall for three days. So he’s here in West Basin hooked up to shore power and he expects to leave in the morning also.
Tracy does some inside and outside cleaning and I get out the tools for making our fender board with the four foot padding that we bought at Wolf’s Marina. Dinner tonight is some spare ribs that Tracy prepared in the pressure cooker and we’re back aboard Sea Cottage watching ‘The Shack’ for tonight’s entertainment. After the movie, we agree to plan for a 9:30 am departure which gives Sea Cottage enough time for pump out and fuel fill after the marina opens at 9:00am. We say our good nights and return to Kailani for the night. Tomorrow we should have good seas for the cruise to Michigan City.