Sailing Lake Michigan--Northbound

Monday, November 7, 2016

Freizeit’s last sailing trip—and ours—came in 2011, when Roland and I sailed up the eastern coast of Lake Michigan. The trip had two purposes. One was to spend several days at Holland, Michigan, with my mother and brothers cleaning out Mama’s house. The other purpose was for pure vacation fun. I was retired from my salaried job and Roland had the summer off, so we could take as long as we wanted.

We were gone for three weeks.

Our first stop was at New Buffalo, Michigan, which was just a place to spend the night. From there, we went to South Haven. It’s a small town with a decent marina and a nice pier. We stayed there two nights and found time to relax. The picture shows the pier at dusk.

From South Haven, we motored to Saugatuck. The wind would have been great if we were going in the other direction—or if we didn’t have a destination in mind and could go wherever the wind took us. But since we had to be in Holland in a couple of days and wanted to spend one of them in the Saugatuck area, motoring was our only option. At least it was an option. I can’t imagine the olden times when ships had to rely entirely on the wind.

We spent those two nights at a marina in Douglas, which is across the Kalamazoo River from Saugatuck. The location was convenient for touring the S.S. Keewatin, which was considered a luxury passenger ship in its day (1908 to 1965). Then after lunch we walked to the chain ferry that crosses the river between Douglas and Saugatuck. It would have been good exercise on a cooler day, but it was a tiring walk in the heat. We when we got there, we took the hand-cranked chain ferry across the river. After walking around Saugatuck (through streets filled with artsy shops aimed at tourists), we took a bus back to the marina.

The next day was Sunday, so we went to church before heading up to Holland. We were docked by 1:00 p.m. and had time to do laundry and a few other things before we would start cleaning out Mama’s house the following day.

On Monday morning, we were eating breakfast and listening to the radio when a weather alert came on warning of high winds and severe storms in the area. Roland immediately went outside and tied the boat up as securely as possible, and we unplugged all the electronics. We had almost finished battening down the hatches when the rain came.

The storm created massive power outages and brought down some huge trees, including some of the most stately ones in the Pine Grove at my alma mater (Hope College). But the boat and its contents were safe, and Mama’s house only lost power for a minute or so. Still, we were glad we weren’t out on the lake.

After spending three days cleaning out Mama’s house, we sailed up to Grand Haven, which has a “musical fountain” that puts on a music and light show after dark. We had a perfect view from where we were docked.

The next day we went to White Lake. We usually docked at municipal marinas, but this time we stayed at the Yacht Club, instead. We chose it because it was the closest marina to the White Lake Light Station, which is a historical lighthouse that is now a museum. Someone told us it was about a mile or a mile-and-a-half walk, but it seemed much longer than that in the heat. We had to walk back, as well, because we hadn’t ridden our bikes and we had no other means of transportation.

From White Lake, we sailed up to Ludington. We passed a number of homes on top of the bluff/dunes. Great views, but a l-o-o-o-n-g way down to the beach, as you can see from the next picture.

Our first full day in Ludington was a Sunday, and we went to church at St. John’s Lutheran, which is LCMS (the same denomination we belong to). LCMS has two seminaries, and Fort Wayne is more liturgically conservative than St. Louis is. I tell you that so you can understand our experience with the service.

The pastor of St. John’s went to the Fort Wayne seminary. The announcement sheet told visitors that St. John’s provided a blended service, offering “contemporary, as well as traditional music, along with a selected mix of liturgy and creeds.” It may have been a Fort Wayne seminary idea of a blended service, but the music was so contemporary that my father used it in his traditional services in the 1960s. In fact, the entire service reminded me of my childhood.

The plan for Monday was to sail north just far enough to take pictures of Big Sable Point Lighthouse from the lake and then head south past Ludington to Pentwater.  However, we modified our plans because the weather forecast called for strong storms in the afternoon. We made the trip north, hoping that it wouldn’t be too overcast to take good pictures, and the sun did come out—briefly—at just the right moment. That’s Big Sable Point Lighthouse in the picture at the head of this post.

We were almost back to Ludington when the storms started. We got soaked, but the thunder and lightning stayed in the distance and the wind speed did not increase enough to be a problem. By the time we reached the entrance to the channel, the sun was trying to come out again.

That day had another adventure, as well. We had hoped to beat the large S.S. Badger car-ferry through the channel, but it left just as we did and moved faster. The channel was wide enough for both and the Badger passed without incident. Still, it wasn’t comfortable watching that big ship bearing down on us.

Big Sable Point Lighthouse was as far north as we got. Next week I’ll tell you about the trip back south.

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