Dick and Gayl's Cruising Adventures

Middle to Southern Lake Michigan

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This section has two pages.  If you have already read this page (Ludington and Grand Haven), click the link below to continue to Saugatuck on Page 2.  Another link to Page 2 can be found at the bottom of this page.

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August 28-29, 2005  Manistee to Ludington
27.3 miles

Big Sable Point Light

We spent the morning watching the lake for signs that the big swells were diminishing, as promised by the NOAA Weather Forecast.  We left at nearly 2 p.m., and still found ourselves plowing through swells up to three feet and occaisionally bigger.  We are starting to think that one to three foot waves is about the best you can hope for on Lake Michigan.  Anything better is bonus good luck.
Along the way we passed the Big Sable Point Light, originally built of cream brick in 1867, but encased in steel plates in 1898, when an inspector found that the brick was flaking away from the stress of Lake Michigan's harsh winters and stormy waters. Shortly after they were installed, the steel plates were painted with the distinctive white and black pattern the lighthouse still has today. It was the last Great Lakes lighthouse to be electrified, in 1949. It was automated in 1968.
We arrived in Ludington at 5:30. The town is on Pere Marquette Lake, and it used to be called Pere Marquette, as well -- after the famous missionary and explorer who died on the lake shore just across from the town. A wealthy Milwaukee businessman whose landholdings included the town and forests around it offered $2,500 for a town library in return for naming the town after him, and the town leaders obliged. Mr. Ludington never lived here, but his name lives on.

S.S. Badger

Ludington is the home port of the S.S. Badger, the largest car farry on Lake Michigan.  It can carry 180 vehicles and 620 passengers, as it crosses the lake between Ludington, Michigan, and Manitowoc, Wisconsin. 
It is an awesome sight to see her hulking bulk underway, belching black smoke from her tall stack.  We aren't sure if the S.S. Badger is the only coal-powered boat left plying the lake, but if not the only, it is certainly one of a very few.
Since her quay was right next to the marina, we saw her coming and going, and were awakened by the Badger's  5:30 a.m. whistle as she arrived after her overnight lake crossing.
We began our visit to Ludington with a grill-out picnic on the waterfront -- buffalo burgers from Oleson's in Manistee, and sweet corn and tomatoes from the Manistee Farmer's market yesterday.
We stayed an extra day, because Lenny was feeling dizzy, and went to the hospital for tests.  We wanted to be around in case Lenny and Roxanne needed help. While they were spending time at the hospital, we were exploring Ludington -- yet another little Michigan port town with a wealthy past built on lumber, and a prosperous present built on beautiful beaches and good fishing.
After a very long visit to Nautical Yarn, a big yarn shop with hundreds of different yarn choices -- including lots of fancy textures and colors and metallic fiber mixtures -- I decided that collecting yarn could be as much of an addiction for me as collecting fabric. After feeling and carefully examining about 23 strong contenders, I bought yarn for my next scarf -- the perfect one I will knit after I manage to make my way through my somewhat challenging first scarf. I figure that when learning by trial and error, it is good to maximize the number of errors made on the first project.  Do you believe me?
(Did I mention that I have already supplemented my Internet research on knitting with the purchase of two knitting books? That was back a few ports.  Fortunately for me, every Michigan port town seems to have a yarn shop, and a book store.)
At the end of the day, we were relieved and thankful to learn that Lenny's doctor back home had cleared him to keep cruising to Benton Harbor, where he and Roxanne already had arranged to leave the boat after Labor Day for a trip home.  When medical issues arise, it is good to be in civilization, with hospitals, pharmacies and fax machines nearby, and good cellphone coverage.  For much of our cruise, we have not been in places so well-equipped, and we are thankful for our health and luck.
August 30-31, 2005  Ludington to Grand Haven
68.2 miles
This was our calmest day ever on Lake Michigan, with water so smooth we were tempted to call it glassy, so we decided to make a long day of it, and cruise all the way to Grand Haven.  All day, we saw Monarch butterflies fluttering across the lake all around us. 
Sunshine, light wind and calm water, butterflies -- it was just too perfect to last. By the time we were an hour and a half from Grand Haven, the lake waters had built to one to three foot waves, with lots of whitecaps, and we were glad to see the red lighthouse marking the Grand Haven breakwater ahead.
When we got to the Grand Haven Municipal Marina, our friends Jane and Bob Steward (who we met at an Elderhostel Birding Trip to Costa Rica and ran into at Jeckyll Island this past spring), were there to meet us.  They live in Michigan, and we were hoping they could cruise with us around here, but our schedules didn't match up.  It was grand to see them again in Grand Haven, however briefly. 
Jane had been reading our website, and knew about my knitting adventures.  An experienced knitter since childhood, she was interested in seeing my scarf, and had some resources to recommend.  Coincidentally, that very day, I had a little problem with dropping stitches off a needle in the middle of a row and unsuccessfully retrieving them, leaving a few unsightly holes in my work.  Jane set about unknitting my scarf, and uncovered a few more problems along the way as she worked back to my holes.  She made major progress in rectifying my problems, but recommended that I take my scarf to a very good knitting shop in town for expert consultation and reconstruction assistance the next day.
We had dinner together at Portabello, an Italian restaurant with really good food, but portions so big no one should clean their plate.  Is there an Italian restaurant in America that serves reasonable sized portions? We took enough leftovers from my meal back to the boat to make up another hearty dinner for the two of us.
After dinner, we sat on our flybridge and watched Grand Haven's signature event -- a lighted musical fountain show on the opposite shore of the Grand River.  When it was built in 1962, the musical fountain was the world's largest.  The fountain is about the size of a football field, located halfway up a sand dune. There are 1,300 water nozzles, and the water reaches heights up to 125 feet.
Bleachers are located next to the Marina as a fountain viewing stand.  There are over 100 different musical programs, so they play a different one every night.  This night the program had a flying theme, with musical selections like "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines."   The special effects with the colorful lights and dancing waters were quite lovely, but the narration, given in the first person by a jet of water, was so corny we couldn't stifle our giggles. 
The next morning we had a big breakfast with the Stewards at their favorite local breakfast spot, then browsed a really wonderful bookstore next door with them.  Jane reads lots of books, and is in a book group with similar reading tastes to mine, so it is interesting to compare book notes with her.  She brought me a book set in Cincinnati to add to my boat reading pile.
Jane and Bob dropped us off at the Farmer's Market near the Marina and headed home to finish packing for a trip to Alaska -- they were departing the next day.  We had a wonderful time with them, as always, and were glad, and honored, that they took time to be with us at a busy time right before leaving on a major trip.
We got lots of fresh produce and a bouquet of bright cutting garden flowers at the Farmer's Market.  Then we rode around the town in search of geocaches.  The hunt took us to the wide and long public beach (white caps building, no swimmers and few sunbathers), on a hike up to the top of a forested sand dune, and along a soft trail beneath the firs in a serene suburban woodland area called Duncan Park.
Afterward, I left Dick at the boat and headed for the knit shop, where the knowledgeable staff ripped a few more inches off my scarf and got it back on the needles intact, so I am ready to resume my progress.  I got another pair of knitting needles for my next scarf. 
I am optimistic about my chances for success on the next scarf with different yarn and needles, and all this experience I am gaining. Most knitters just have a couple nearby knit shops or friends as in-person resources for their projects.  By the time I finish my first scarf, I will have gained quality consultations and advice from knitting experts spanning hundreds of miles and multiple states.

Grand Haven Light

Later that afternoon, Roxanne and I walked out to the lighthouse at the end of the breakwater.  Lake Michigan was thick with whitecaps and waves four to six feet.  It was also thick with fishing boats.  I can't comprehend the level of passion fishermen bring to their sport -- how the thrill of the hunt can overcome the physical discomfort of being tossed about by such big waves for hours on end is one of life's deep mysteries.   
We ended our day with another Musical Fountain presentation -- a pot pourri program of everything from the MASH theme to Broadway tunes to a symphonic selection. 
It was a very full and action-packed day.

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