Saturday, September 30, 2006


Tomorrow's the day.
Provided the weather forecast hold, we will be heading out very early in the morning for Chicago. I called for reservations at a large marina near downtown, and they will be expecting us around 5 PM tomorrow.
The lake is predicted to be fairly calm tomorrow, biggest waves at 4 feet, but settling down through the day.
Next stop, the Windy City (so called due to all the Hot Air blown by the politicians.)
Wish us luck!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Sorry, we've been out of touch

On Tuesday, we made it to St. Joseph. We stayed at St. Joseph, MI. for several days due to a big cold front that was coming in. The marina (West Basin Municipal) was very nice and the staff were very helpful. They even gave us a "late season discount" on the price of the slip.
We did some shopping at Wolf's Marine. They picked us up at the marina and drove us back. It's worth the stop at St. Joe just to go to Wolf's. Think "warehouse shopping" for boat stuff. Really neat. I bought myself an inflatable life jacket/harness like the one Bev has. At last I have something I will actually wear.
We ran into fellow sailor Dave, from "Golden Heart." We met Dave at White Lake. St. Joe is his home port. He drove us to the grocery store and back. Thanks, Dave!
This morning we slogged our way another 24 miles down the lake to New Buffalo. The good news is that we're now only 40 miles from Chicago. The bad news is that this "boater friendly" city closed its municipal marina for the season on Sept 15, and the only other marina in town charges $2.50 per foot per night, and then has the nerve to charge extra for internet access. We were lucky to run into the harbormaster at the municipal and he let us tie up, but there's no water, no showers, etc. He did let us use the electricity.
N.B. to all boaters - DO NOT COME to New Buffalo. It is NOT a boater-friendly town. Any town that is supposed to be a "harbor of refuge" and closes its marina on Sept 15 is not "boater-friendly" in my book.
At least all we need now is one more good day. If we get a really good weather day we can sail the 40 miles to Chicago. We have to be there before Oct. 15, because that's when Chicago marinas all close for the season. Wish us luck.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A few pics

Here are a few pics of South Haven & Saugatuck.

Saugatuck & South Haven

This morning it is very windy. The boat is rocking at the dock and straining the lines. I had to adjust the lines again this morning. This is a lovely harbor, but it is not at all protected from the wind.
The forecast doesn't look good today or tomorrow. Tuesday looks like the first chance to get to St. Joseph. Waves are predicted at 5 to 8 foot today. A good day to do some shopping in town.
Friday evening in Saugatuck, we went to the Boathouse Restaurant/Pub to hear the "Nobody's Darlin's," an all girl bluegrass/rockabilly band. They were very good, if you like that kind of music. It's not my cup of tea, but I had fun anyway. The only real issue I had was the sound balance. They just couldn't get the fiddle-player's mike loud enough. What I could hear was good, but I just couldn't hear her well enough.
Yesterday afternoon, we went to the local maritime museum. One of the features is a replica of "Friends Goodwill" a famous sailing ferry of 1800's. It's a square-rigged sloop about the size of "Clearwater." We could have taken a sail aboard her, but with the lake so lumpy the last thing we wanted yesterday was to get back on the lake. Besides that, it was $30 per person for a 90 minute sail. We can do that ourselves for free.
Last night we went to a small production by the Our Town Players, a local community theater group. They put on 4 short comedies which featured first-time directors. Included in the price of admission was desert and beverages. In between the plays the audience had the opportunity to ask questions of the director and the actors. It was a fun, interesting evening.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

South Haven & more lumpy water

This morning we had a little break in the weather, so we set out for South Haven, about 19 miles south of Saugatuck. The sky was overcast, and we did get a little rain about 6 miles out of South Haven. The waves were running about 4 feet, but we were dressed in our raingear and didn't mind the spray. Also, I'm getting a bit better at handling the boat in the chop, so it didn't seem so nerve wracking. Just after we docked, a serious storm blew through and there was a brief, but torrential, downpour. We were in West Marine buying some really nice wet-weather gloves when the worst hit.
As I write this, it is raining hard and the boat is rocking pretty hard at the dock. I had to go out and reset the lines to be sure we were secure for the night. Tomorrow looks bad as there are supposed to be 8 foot waves on the lake. We might not get out of here until Tuesday. At least this is a pretty nice town with lots to do.
We have at least one, maybe two more stops before Chicago. We have to stop at St. Joseph to get mail, then we might go on to New Buffalo. It is possible to go straight to Chicago from St. Joe, but it's 55 miles and on this lake that's a big jump. If we go down the coast to New Buffalo, it's only 33 miles from there to Chicago.
Tomorrow, I'll post a few notes about things we did in Saugatuck and here in South Haven.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Carpe Diem & wet decks

Last night when we went to bed, we thought today was going to be an easy day, just a short trip (13 miles) to Grand Haven. When we got up, the forecast had changed and they had deleted the "building to 2 to 4" bit regarding wave height. That meant that the "1 to 2" bit was supposed to hold for the entire day. We set out for Grand Haven at about 8:00 AM. By 10:00 we were approaching the sea wall outside the harbor. The sun was shining, the wind was light and the waves were small, so we said "Carpe Diem" and set off for Saugatuck, another 25 miles or so away.
As the day wore on, the waves built and for a while we were pounding into 3 and 4 footers. Several waves broke over the bow and gave the decks a good washing. A couple of times we got splashed all the way back in the cockpit. Would have been a lot of fun if it had been warmer.
While we were stuck in Muskegon, some wonderful folks from - of all things - a power boat helped us by giving us a ride to Walmart and West Marine. Thank you folks, it was a huge help for us. Who says power boaters aren't nice?
Here are a couple of pics from Muskegon and our trip down to Saugatuck.
Every Wednesday evening they have a sailboat race on Muskegon Lake. We walked down to the beach to watch, but they were too far away to see much of the action.
Of course, Bev had to snap a pic of me all bundled against the 40 degree temp as we left Muskegon, smiling because we're finally on the move again.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Phlash Phelps and XM

We have another fan, Phlash Phelps from XM radio channel 6. He played a song for us yesterday, and he played another request for Bev today (ladies' day.) He took time to mention the fact that we are on a homemade boat and are making our way down toward the Keys.
The XM radio really works well for us. We know that no matter where we are, we can get good music on the radio. Finding what you want to hear on FM is next to impossible these days. It's all hip-hop or contemporary junk. With XM, if you want to hear 60's, you tune in channel 6 and there you have it. You can get jazz, classical, new age, whatever you want.
Thanks to Mike (my son) and Kari (his girlfriend) for the XM radio and subscription. We love it.

Monday, September 18, 2006

We're getting more famous every minute!

Somehow, we've earned a listing on Cruise News. This is a really neat site with tons of links to other cruisers and sources for stuff like storable food, etc. I don't know how we got listed there, but thanks to whomever did it. Click on the link below to check it out.


Good news and bad news

First, the bad news: we're still in Muskegon. The waves on the lake are running 4 to 7 feet today, expected to build to 5 to 8 feet tonight. Tomorrow doesn't look any better. It looks like out first weather window to get out of here will open up on Wednesday afternoon. Our next stop will be Grand Haven, only about 14 miles away, so a half day will be all we need.
The good news is I have plotted our course to Chicago and if we can get a weather window it should only take another 7 days to get there. It's 152 miles divided up into 7 trips varying from 9.3 to 33.5 miles. Each one of these trips can be done in a day, so all we need is 7 good days and we will be off this lake! I can't wait!
In the mean time, we sit here in Muskegon and clean house, do minor maintenance, read, etc.
Saturday afternoon, the charger on the computer bit the dust. I dug out my warrantee papers and Sunday we took a cab to Best Buy. They were great. They ordered a replacement charger at no cost, but it has to be shipped so who knows how long that will take? But, when I explained to the manager that I use the computer to navigate the boat, he gave me a loaner to use until the replacement catches up with us. Cheers for the Geek Squad!
While we were out Sunday we stopped at a Meijer's supermarket. It's kind of a local version of a Walmart Supercenter. We stocked up on a lot of things we were low on, like shampoo, etc. and also did the grocery shopping for the week. It gave the long and expensive cab ride a bit more of a payoff.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Well, we ventured out on the lake today in spite of the prediction of waves running at 4 feet. The wind and waves were hitting us square on the nose so we had to run the motor the whole way. We slammed our way 15 miles south to Muskegon.
This is a very busy harbor with lots of marinas and lots of sailboats. Lake Muskegon is a pretty nice spot to take a day sail and it looks like lots of the locals do just that.
Looking ahead at the weather for the next few days it seems like we might be stuck again. There's a front coming in from the west that will bring cold, wind and rain through much of the next week. Tomorrow the wind is predicted to be out of the south again, with waves running at 6 feet. Yuck. Now the challenge will be to get to a grocery store. If we're stuck here for a while we need provisions, and there's no store nearby.
After we landed here at Muskegon, we walked over to the Great Lakes Naval Museum and toured the WWII sub SS Silversides. If we had known far enough in advance, we might have booked a night on the sub. They rent out the boat to groups to spend a night on the sub. Pretty cool, but they're booked for tonight, and tomorrow there's no one booked at there has to be at least 20 people or they don't do it.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Little by little...

we are making our way down the coast of Michigan. Today we traveled 32 miles to Whitehall, on White Lake.
Many of the harbor towns along this shore were created by taking natural lakes that were close to the inland sea known as Lake Michigan, then dredging out a channel for boats to use to get from the smaller lake to the larger. White Lake is one of those. White Lake itself is about 5 miles long by one mile wide. There are about 6 or 7 marinas along the shore of the lake, and lots and lots of sailboats populate these marinas.
Tomorrow, if the weather holds, we will go another 15 miles to Muskegon. There we will tour a WWII submarine that is on exhibit.
Pretty soon we'll be in Chicago. Wow!
I just looked at the track of our journey so far. Holy cow! 1189 nautical miles across New York, Ontario, Michigan and 3 of the Great Lakes. What a journey! And it's only 1/5 done. It's still about 1300 or 1400 miles to Mobile. Then the real fun begins.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

That's more like it!

Now that the weather has cleared, spent the morning shopping at West Marine and a music store, then headed out for Pentwater. The wind was running about 5 to 10 knots out of the north/northwest and the waves were less than a foot. We set the sails full up and had a delightful, relaxing sail the 12 miles to Pentwater. For once we able to sail the entire distance and used the engine only for docking. Wonderful!


1) The Beach
2)"Reflections" the schooner sculpture
3)Lumbering Sculpture
4)Another sailing sculpture
5)The beach, with Badger in the distance


Late yesterday afternoon, the skies cleared and we took a little walk around Ludington just to see what there is to see. Here are a few pics around the waterfront. The whispy looking sculpture is a stylized schooner to honor the sailing tradition of Ludington. The whole waterfront park is dotted with sculptures that have something to do with the history of the place.
There is also a really great beach here. Too bad it wasn't warm enough to really use it, but here are a couple of pics of the beach, and of Badger returning from her trip across the Lake.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

SS Badger

Ludington is the home port of the last coal fired steamship operating in the Great Lakes, maybe anywhere in the US. I've posted a couple of pics of the ship docking last night.
Badger was originally a railroad ferry, but has been refitted as a luxury passenger/car ferry. She can carry 620 passengers and 180 cars. She's 410 feet long and has staterooms, 2 restaurants, shops, etc. just like a cruise ship.
Watching her pull in last night and then leave this morning, I was amazed at how quiet she is. No throbbing diesels, just the hiss of the steam engines. She seems to glide silently through the water, amazing for such a big ship. It makes me think how majestic the old steamers like Titanic must have been in their day.
Another interesting thing was how the captain pulled her into the dock. The stern opens up to allow cars in and out, so he had to back into the slip. To turn the ship in the narrow harbor channel, he dropped an anchor and spun the ship around by swinging on the anchor. It was something to see.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Well, after breakfast we decided to motor down the river to see what the lake looked like. The waves looked OK, so we decided to head out to Ludington. The sky was over cast, and we did get a little rain but nothing like yesterday. We had a really good sail for the first 7 miles or so, then the wind petered out so we had to motor the rest of the way.
We got into Ludington about 3 PM and got a slip at the town marina. We will most likely stay here tomorrow as the wind is predicted to be from the north at about 20 knots. That will give us a following sea at 4 to 6 feet, which will be quite uncomfortable. Thursday looks like another good day to travel.
We've made about 85 miles in the last 3 days, and that's good progress. We're now about half way down the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. That makes Chicago possible sometime next week.
The boat and I have now travelled 1145 nautical miles since I set out in June. Bev has done 557 miles less.

Beautiful sail, ugly weather

Yesterday we set out about 10 AM under overcast skies. The prediction was for east winds and light showers, so we put on our rain gear before we started out. We figured, like the umbrella theory "if we have it, we won't need it."
As we set out, the wind was very light so we had to motor-sail for a while. As the morning progressed, the wind got stronger and soon we were clocking 7 knots and it became difficult to control the boat. So we cut the engine and just sailed. Under sail alone we slowed down to about 4.5 knots but it was a much more comfortable ride. When the gusts hit, our speed would pick up to about 5.5 or 6, then back to 4.5 when the gust subsided.
We hugged the coastline to avoid the bigger waves farther off and had a wonderful sail most of the 25 miles to Manistee. The rain started in mid afternoon, but it was just a light sprinkle at first, and with the very pleasant sailing conditions, we didn't mind the light rain.
As we approached the outer marks for the harbor at Manistee, both the wind and the rain picked up considerably. We dropped the sails and motored into the river, with the boat heeling from the wind hitting the bare poles.
We found the town marina. It was almost empty and there was no attendant on duty. A fellow boater helped us tie up. The wind and current would have made it difficult if he hadn't been there. By the way, Karma works. The boater who helped us yesterday is the same guy that I helped out the day before. What goes around, comes around.
Once we landed, we hooked up with Diane and Randy, a couple we had met in Leland a few days ago. It was Diane's birthday, so they invited us to their boat for drinks to help celebrate.
Today it is supposed to rain all afternoon. We have laundry and shopping to do, so we may stay here tonight. Tomorrow, there's supposed to be a north wind at 20. If that holds, we might stay here again. The day after is predicted to be dead calm. On the other hand, we might brave the rain and go today. We'll see after breakfast.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

On our way

The weather finally broke last night and we were able to set sail today. We left Leland very early, before 8:00 am. We were able to actually sail most of the way to Frankfort, almost 40 miles south of Leland. If the weather hold, we won't stay here long. With good weather tomorrow we will try for Manistee, about 25 miles south of here.

Pic: leaving Leland before the dew burned off the deck.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


The storms we've been waiting for have finally passed. The forecast for the next few days says the wind will be from the east. This means the seas should be relatively calm and we should be able to shove off and head for Frankfort. Now it will be a mad scramble to stay ahead of Jack Frost. I was really hoping to be farther south by this time and it's really starting to get cool here. We're wearing jackets or sweaters every day now. Yikes! My tan is fading!
The last few days while waiting here in Leland, we've run into some seasoned Lake Michigan sailors who stopped here to get off the lake and avoid the weather. (Some of the other boats came in with blown-out sails, so I guess I was right to stay in port.)Chatting with them we got some pointers on how to handle the Lake Michigan swells. The big difference is that on this lake, the swells come very close together, making boat handling difficult. It's not so much the height of the wave as it is the period. On the ocean a 6 foot swell is not much to worry about as the waves tend to be spread out. Here on this lake, the waves come much closer together so it's very uncomfortable and also not uncommon. The next time we're out, I'll try some of the tips I got from the other sailors and see if they help.
After Frankfort, the ports get closer together, so we won't have as much worry about heading out. If I know there's a port of refuge 8 or 10 miles away, I'll be much less worried heading out onto the lake. We should be able to make Manistee by Tuesday and that's about 80 miles farther down the lake. If the weather holds we should be in Chicago in another 10 days or so. After that, it's river travel for the next 1200 miles or so, something I'm much more accustomed to.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Still waiting

The prediction today is for Thunderstorms, continuing into tomorrow. So we wait another day and see what it looks like tomorrow. At least the wind has shifted and the waves are coming from the southwest. If I have deal with waves in the 3 to 5 foot range, I'd rather take them on the nose than from the stern.
I'm told that Lake Michigan is usually lumpy like this, so I guess we'll have to slog through some slop for a while to get out of the lake. It will be a relief to get back into the rivers.
At least the sunsets here are pretty.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Lumpy water

Well, we're here in Leland Michigan. We started out for Frankfort this morning but ran into some sloppy water. The waves were running at only about 2 feet, but they were hitting us from the side and the forecast was for them to build. A beam sea like that makes for a very uncomfortable ride, and to put up with that for a 7 hour trip - yuck! With descretion being the better part of valor, we pulled back into port to wait for a better weather window. The trip to Frankfort is about 40 miles with no refuge along the way. After our experience at Beaver Island last week, we are not ready to go through that again. The forecast for that day was exactly the same as the forecast for today.
So we wait.
At least there's a grocery store here, and a few other things to occupy us. There are worse places to wait.
The problem is the weather really doesn't look any better until the weekend. I hate to loose that much time, but better safe than sorry.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Charlevoix and Earl Young

Charlevoix is a neat little town. The tone seems to have been set in the 1930's when Earl Young started building his unique stone houses. For years, they been called the "Fairy Houses," but lately they've taken on the nickname "Hobbit Houses." I'll post a couple of pics so you can see what I mean.
The harbor year is very well protected, we actually have been able to sleep soundly, no waves slapping against the hull or grinding from the pilings.
Once again we've met some great people. Last night we hosted a couple from another boat. We served "Painkillers" and they brought pate'.
Our new favorite drink, the Painkiller, is:
1 ounce orange juice
4 ounces pineapple juice
1 ounce cream of coconut
2, 3 or 4 ounces of Pusser's Navy Rum, to taste.
Goes down SO easy, but packs a punch. Enjoy.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Some pics of the last few days

1)The beach on Beaver Island.
2)Fort Mackincac, Mackinac Island seen as we were leaving the port.
3)The Mackinac Straits Bridge, just after we had passed under it.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

...of kings and beans and 6 foot waves.

We left Mackinac Island on Thursday and made the 42 mile crossing to Beaver Island. We sailed under the Mackinac Straits Bridge. The morning was glorious, and we sailed with the wind at our backs until we reached a spot on the chart marked Grey's Reef. We had to make a sharp turn to port to get through the narrow passage in the reef. This put the wind on our beam just as the wind speed picked up and the waves started to build. It was a very uncomfortable ride until we got out of the reef and made our turn back to starboard for the last 15 miles into Beaver. Then it got really ugly. The wind had picked up again and we now had 6 foot seas at our backs. If you've never done it, sailing with big seas behind you is a trip. As each wave approaches it lifts the boat up and you surf for a few yards, just like a surfboard. Then the wave gets ahead of you and you drop suddenly into the trough. On the way down the wave, the water pulls on the rudder making steering very difficult and tiring. We ended up taking down the mainsail and going on with mizzen and the engine, just so I could keep the boat on course.
We made it into Beaver Island around 5:00 PM, tired, damp, but all in one piece. The cabin got a bit jumbled as stuff flew off every available surface as we rolled and rolled in the rough water. We decided to stay two nights just to rest up.
Beaver Island has an interesting history. It is the only place in the US ever to have a king. In the 1800's a group of Mormons split from Brigham Young's group and started their own colony on Beaver. A man named Strang appointed himself king. When the US government sent a warship into the harbor to protest the crowning of the king, several of his followers assassinated him. After that, the Mormon community faded away, replaced by dispossessed Irish immigrants. Today, the island is refered to as the Emerald Isle, due to the presence of so many Irish.
On Friday night, we went to a little club called the Shamrock and were treated to a CD release party. The artist is a guy named Michael Beans. Imagine a cross between Jimmy Buffett and early Bob Dylan, spiced up with a bit of whimsical audience participation. It was a blast! I ended up buying his CD so I could learn a couple of his songs.
Today, we made the 28 mile crossing to Charlevoix, a really pretty town on the Lower Penninsula. We were lucky to get a spot at the marina as this is one of the busiest harbors on the Great Lakes. But we're here and will probably stay through Labor Day. There's lots to do and see here, and the remnants of Earnesto are due here soon, so we'll wait here till it all blows over.