We left Mackinac Island on August 18th and spent 25 days meandering the western coastline of Michigan. For boaters Michigan has created numerous harbors with really nice breakwalls and entrances that are every 20 – 30 miles. The state intentionally made these “Harbors of Refuge”. We decided that we would explore places and take our time so that we would not arrive in Chicago until after Labor Day.
The concern most Loopers have about Lake Michigan is the winds and the waves. Most of them are in smaller trawlers that roll back and forth going about 8 mph. The chop and the waves make for an unpleasant ride. We are still traveling with our Buddy Boat, One Eye Dog, a 52 foot Haterras that can power up. The four of us would all check our weather apps before venturing out on the Lake. Our plan was to arrive in the town by noon and spend the entire next day there enjoying the town and relaxing and leave the 3rd morning. There were only two times where we had to wait an extra day due to windy conditions. At this point in the season we were seeing more winds from the north which would be off of our stern. Wind off our stern was good for our boats and we cruised along about 10 mph. If the waves picked up we would increase our speed to smooth out the ride. Gypsies Palace rides really nice in most conditions and we avoided anything with waves over three feet on the Lake. We have been so happy with the smooth ride on this catamaran!
A typical day for us would be to leave the dock around 8:00 and arrive somewhere around noon. Once we got the boat secured and got checked in, the four of us would walk around the town to see what was there. We would select a restaurant for dinner in this process. Sometimes we would luck out and they would have a Farmer’s Market. We would purchase local produce, baked goods (especially if the husbands were along) and other goodies. My buddy, April and I never passed up a Farmer’s Market, Fish Store or grocery store in these towns. You never know what you may find!
The following day she and I would set off to town to looks for sales in the stores. I will admit that we rarely bought anything. First of all, we have to decide “Where do we put it and do we need it?”. It got to be a joke though because every town had a Kilwin’s Ice Cream and Glik’s for ladies clothing. The second day was “Eat Lunch Out Day” and cook dinner on the boat later. During this time we also caught up on laundry and chores around the boat. Each marina seemed to have great WiFi so keeping up on the internet was very easy.
The big plus during this time was that the days were beautiful…..cool temperatures in the low 70’s. We did have chilly nights though in the 40’s so we ran the heater, but needed no air conditioning. I will give a quick run down on the towns that we stopped in. My previous blog covered the northern towns in Michigan.
Frankfort – When we stopped here there were a lot of other Loopers. This area had a lake so we got the kayaks down and make a tour of the area. We could even kayak under Gypsies Palace……Limbo Rock anyone?
Manistee- Docking was on the river along a Riverwalk. We had a parade of people walking by. Many of the stores were empty. We found a renovated historic movie theater and took in a movie that was inexpensive. I found a Jazzercise class which was a plus!
Ludington – This is a great stop. Gypsies Palace was docked right where the car ferry, The Badger, turns around and docks. This is quite a spectacle and a crowd gathers every night at 7:00 to watch this. We invited other Loopers to sit on the bow of our boat for our own viewing. During this time college football started and we displayed our Florida State flags proudly! One note about Ludington is that they had the most unique grocery store that had a bar in it. You could buy a drink and shop with a cupholder in the cart!
Grand Haven – This is a favorite stop for Loopers, but we did not opt to dock downtown at the municipal marina. This is one harbor that was not “protected” from the west winds. We had determined that winds would kick up to 20 – 30 mph during our time here so we went further down the river to Grand Isle, which protected us from the strong winds. The downside is that we were away from town and needed to Uber in. Grand Haven has this Fountain Show at night that we definitely wanted to see. We found a Looper friend that had their boat at the municipal marina and they invited us on for a front row seat. Couldn’t ask more than that! Even then though their boat was really rocking from the winds it was enjoyable. Another treat for me is that one of my high school friends drove over for a visit. He has been following along on Facebook and just had to see the boat!
Holland – We visited this town by car as the town is not actually on the river where we could dock. It was worth the trip. It is a very cute town with a vibrant downtown.
Saugatuck – We stopped here due to numerous recommendations. This stop was different in that you enter and go up a river to get to the town. It was really quite scenic. We docked at a “Boatel”, which is a motel that had docks. They also had a nice hot tub for us to use! This turned out to be one of our favorite stops. There were lots of shops and restaurants that we enjoyed. There is just a good “vibe” about this place.
St. Joseph – Our marina was a hefty walk to town, but we did catch a Farmer’s Market. What I will remember about this stop is all of the “Fish Artwork” on all the corners of their town. They also had a great Jazzercise Center that I enjoyed.
There is a lot of debate among Loopers about whether to go down the Michigan or Wisconsin coastline. One argument is that going down the Wisconsin side negates the strong westerly winds. I talked to some Loopers that did that and they said that they still have rough water. My vote is the Michigan Coastline. The towns were friendly, welcoming to boaters and interesting. It really was a highlight of our trip and I was sad leaving it……….if it wasn’t for Chicago coming up!