It has been a very busy week and we have moved the boat about 140 miles. With Claire on board we have now enjoyed the villages of Leland, Frankfort, Pentwater, and Grand Haven, Michigan. Here is what has been going on:
Monday (8/17) – Frankfort, MI– We left Leland following our friends on TiKa and headed to Frankfort. Several of the other looper boats were contemplating leaving, but had not finalized their decision before we left. So, we wished them well and moved on.
We cruised the 36 miles in slightly bumpy water, but it was tolerable.
We arrived into Jacobson’s marina and pulling in we realized we were definitely in a high rent area. Mark successfully navigated around a 125 foot yacht to put us in the slip without issue. Once again TiKa was in a slip not far from us and we made plans to do a cookout together. The marina itself is very nice and offered first class facilities; what a difference between a municipal and a private marina!ent place.
We did a quick walk around the town and discovered places that would be good to dine at, but we were only staying one day and had already made plans for diner. Afterwards, Claire went to the marina pool (which was 80 degrees) while Denise worked on the last blog posting and Mark took a nap.
Later that evening we had docktails aboard TiKa and where they brought out a cheese spread we now have become addicted to. We jokingly call it “crack” as it is delicious and you can’t stop eating it; with or without crackers.
The guys cooked hamburgers on the grill and Karen made a delicious Cesar Salad to share. After several hours of great conversation and discussion of future plans said good night and went back to our Island Office.
Tuesday (8/18) – Pentwater, MI– We were up early and under way by 8:00 am as we had a long way to go today and we wanted to beat the wind which was expected to pick up throughout the day. We cruised over 57 nm, but not before stopping to get fuel in Ludington and missing the rainstorm that doused the fuel dock before we arrived. We had decided not to stay at this popular harbor as the weather for the next 3 days did not look favorable to movement and we needed to get further down the Michigan coast. Therefore we pressed on and arrived into Pentwater just after 1pm.
Originally when we pulled into the Snug Harbor marina they were not sure where to put us so they had us pull up to the fuel dock. We noticed tied to the wall near the fuel dock was the boat “Gypsea”; Platinum Loopers (2 or more loops) Dick & Pat Danly whom we last saw in Petoskey.
Very soon thereafter we got a slip assignment and pulled in next to a big Viking Sport fishing boat (named “Bottom Line”). Once we got the boat settled in, Mark checked us in and Denise & Claire found shirts to buy in the marina office. We ate a quick lunch aboard the boat, then Claire and Denise went for a walk in the town and did a restaurant reconnaissance for dinner.
Even though Pentwater is a small beach village, there are lots of little shops to see and there is a lot of boating history here with historical markers depicting key events. They have a very nice municipal marina (for boats under 35 feet) with a terrific fish cleaning station. There is a members-only yacht club and a terrific chandlery, as well as a bait & tackle shop right nearby. They definitely cater to the fisherman and all things nautical, making it a very interesting place. But there are also several art galleries, ice cream stores, coffee shops, a kitchen store, and a very fun kid’s toy shop.
We walked past the village park and noticed the sidewalk was full of chalk drawings and sayings. On one there were instructions to jot down your favorite saying and there sat a tub of sidewalk chalk. Naturally, Denise had to pick up a piece and make her contribution.
Once back at the boat Mark was informed that there are really only a handful of places to eat dinner in town. We had solicited the advice of all the townspeople we had met throughout the day, and overwhelmingly they suggested Gull Landing. So, that is what we decided and we were not disappointed. We had considered another place (Village Café) as they were going to have a comedy show at 8:00, but we decided against it when we learned there was a $9 per person cover. After all, we probably would fall asleep half way through the show and thought our own humor was better than anything we have heard in a long time.
After dinner we walked down to one of the ice cream shops we had discovered during the day. It is really the town candy store that also sells ice cream and they have the most unique seats; old ski lift chairs.
Walking back to the boat we were serenaded by the music coming from the park. On Tuesday nights, any musicians in town get together and entertain anyone who decides to show up. Welcome to small-town America!
We went back to the boat and discussed our plans for the next day; one that would keep us in Pentwater due to bad weather.
Wednesday (8/19) – Pentwater, MI– The day started with Claire and Denise completing 4 loads of laundry before Mark got out of bed. No, it was not because of early rising, it was because the laundry facilities are at the marina office across the parking lot from our boat slip. With 4 loads in washing and drying cycles and no one else around, it was easy to utilize all the machines and get the job done.
After breakfast Claire & Denise took a glass fusion class from a local artist named Jilly. She has an amazing glass sculpture on the wall in her gallery that one second prize in an art show in 2014. You can check it out as well as more about her here. We enjoyed learning about how to score and cut the glass pieces and how to glue them together before they are fired in the kiln. Our own creative pieces will be ready on Thursday morning which works out great as we are staying in Pentwater until Friday due to windy weather. Mark had some work to do and stayed on the boat to get it done.
After the art class, we all walked the 1.1 miles to the harbor entrance to see what waves the wind had kicked up as it was really blowing hard. On one side of the harbor it was really rough with white caps on Lake Michigan, but on the other (beach) side it was pretty calm. There were even people in the water swimming, despite a forecast of high winds, rip currents and “longshore currents” (a lake current that moves parallel to shore and can prevent swimmers from being able to keep their feet on the bottom, making it difficult to return to shore). However, these were not forecasted to really develop until late in the day, so they were probably enjoying their “summer” weather.
On the way back to the boat we stopped by Pentwater Outfitters to investigate the possibility of renting kayaks. After talking with owner Gregg about where we could go in such windy conditions, we were still undecided whether we should go or not. We went back to the boat for lunch and decided to go up the North branch of the Pentwater River and called back to the store to inform them. At 2:00 Gregg & his associate/girlfriend Bonny came by to pick us up at the marina and drop us at the entrance to the river branch. This would allow us to kayak downstream and enjoy the protection of tall trees and high grasses. Presumably this would protect us from the winds which were continuing to build.
We all launched successfully and made arrangements for a pickup at the end of the branch, but before the tributary dumped into the River and exposing us to the strongest of the wind. We had been underway just a short time when Claire got twisted around in the narrow channel, then rolled her kayak and dumped her into the cold water. She was startled and not injured in the shallow water, but her kayak was filled with water and she was unable to get it out. So, Denise (who was leading) paddled back to help her and Mark. When doing so she ran into some dead tree limbs and came within a foot or two of a snake lying camouflaged on the branches. She backed out and yelled “snake” which startled Claire (who was standing in the water) even more. Eventually working together we got a lot of the water out of the kayak, Claire was able to get back in, and we headed downstream.
The rest of the journey passed without incident and we were treated to some terrific wildlife. We saw several immature bald eagles and came incredibly close to a loon that had been acting like our tour guide for about ½ mile downriver. The sun came out and the clouds disappeared, making for a beautiful day, albeit still windy. Because of this we intentionally passed our meeting spot to explore further down river, knowing the wind was in our favor to paddle back upstream against the current. So we continued another 15 minutes or so until we came to where the wind was blocked and would no longer help us. Then we turned around to go back. When there was a big gust of wind, instead of paddling Mark would hold up his paddle and use it as a sail. The wind was strong enough it would push him against the current. Eventually we got back to the meeting point and called for our pickup. Gregg and Bonny were there in 10 minutes, with a towel for Claire who was now freezing in the cold wind. They were terrific and we had such a great day!
Pictures from our kayaking adventure:
After we got back, we got showers and went to dinner at the only pizza joint in town. It was good and so filling that we skipped the ice cream stop for the evening. We meandered back to the boat and spent the rest of the evening relaxing.
Thursday (8/20) – Pentwater, MI– We woke up to pouring rain and heavy winds that were rocking the boat. Claire & Denise planned to go for a walk, but were unable to get out the door as every time they got ready to go the rain would kick up again. By the time Mark woke up the rain had stopped and they convinced him to walk back to the beach and check out the roughness of Lake Michigan. The wind was clearly blowing 20 – 25 knots with higher gusts, so we expected to see some rough water.
Of course along the way it began to sprinkle a bit and we all got a little wet, but not too badly. Mark eventually stopped under a shelter while Claire and Denise walked back out to the breakwater to take pictures. No one was on the beach today and only one person was out walking his dog, which enable us to get some pictures of us together.
We didn’t hang around long even though the rain stopped. We picked up Mark who was hanging out in the shelter area of the nearby park, and we headed back to the boat. By this time the weekly Farmer’s market was open so Claire & Denise went to check it out while Mark continued back to the marina. We purchased a few items, including some fresh flowers to make the boat look cheery in the gloomy weather.
Back at the boat we had lunch and decided to stay in the marina for the rest of the afternoon due to the on & off rain and howling wind. Claire watched a few more episodes of the NetFlix series “Bloodline”, while Mark worked and Denise cataloged pictures. After a while the rain stopped so we walked up the street to “The Brown Bear” for one of their terrific hamburgers for dinner.
It was a fun and lively place that was quite crowded despite the inclement weather.
Other Pictures from Pentwater:
Friday (8/21) – Grand Haven, MI – What a difference a day makes. We left Pentwater around 8:30 to a morning with temperatures in the low 50’s and a very slight breeze blowing. The skies were mostly clear and the waves had calmed, but still around 2 -3 feet. Luckily things calmed down even more as the day progressed and it ended up being a beautiful day. We cruised nearly 50 miles into Grand Haven municipal marina where our buddies on TiKa were waiting for us.
This marina is about 2 miles up the Grand River and faces north. There is no breakwater between the River and the marina, creating quite a swell in the marina when other boats pass by, or when the wind kicks up off Lake Michigan to its West. To its south is the town of Grand Haven with restaurants and shops within walking distance. There is also a 2-mile river walk that goes from east of the marina all the way to the breakwater and lighthouse on the far western shore.
Grand Haven is home to a Coast Guard sector office that is designated as a heavy weather station and an ice rescue capable unit. It has been distinguished as “Coast Guard City USA” and every year in early August they have a “Coast Guard Festival” with festivities throughout the weeklong event. As part of these celebrations, there are sculptures created by groups and organizations as a tribute to the CG. These are on display all throughout town.
Grand Haven is also home to the famous “Musical Fountain”; a water show that is put on every single night during the summer, and weekends during spring and fall. This amazing display of water performing to the musical tunes of all genres occurs on the land on the opposite side of the river, right in front of the marina. There is grand-stand seating immediately adjacent to the marina, and the event is broadcast over loudspeakers so it can be heard quite a distance. Although the show only lasts about 20 minutes, people come early to set up chairs in the nearby park or to claim seats in the grandstands. You can learn more about this very cool event here.
When we arrived our boat was assigned to the very first slip in the marina; adjacent to the grandstands. Needless to say, lots of people were looking at our boat and we received many positive comments about it and the name. But because it was first in line, it also took the brunt of the eastbound swell coming in from Lake Michigan, and we were bouncing. However, we did have great seats to watch the show!
After getting checked in and settling the boat, Claire & Denise went walking in the downtown area. This (naturally) involved going through the shops on the main street and up a few of the side streets. We came to the conclusion that all of these little towns along the Michigan shoreline have many of the same shops and are all starting to look alike. Yet, each has something unique and different; this one has the CG and the Musical Fountain. In the meantime, Mark went and got the rental car for tomorrow’s drive into Grand Rapids to take Claire to the airport.
We arrived back in time to have Docktails aboard TiKa. Karen & Tim were hosting Tim’s sister (Pam) and her husband (Butch), so there was quite a group of us chit-chatting away.
We decided to all go to dinner at Porto Bello, an Italian restaurant right across the street from the marina. It was pretty good and we had a great time answering all of Tim’s (“I hate small talk”) probing questions.
After dinner we went back to the marina and couldn’t believe how crazy busy things had become. There were tons of people in the park by the marina, and the grandstands were full. The River walk free wall was filled with boats who were tied up for the night, many of whom were rafted together; some up to 3 deep. The river was full of boats and all were jockeying for positions to watch the Musical Fountain. It is summer and a nice night, so everyone was out near or on the water.
We went for a walk down the river walk to see all the people, and to see if any Looper boats were tied up to the free wall. We saw one boat that had been in our marina earlier, but they were not on their boat when we walked by.
After we finished walking this area, we continued on the eastern part, passing the charter fishing boats and coming to another park. Here they have an old train and steam engine the town has restored, and is now a play area for kids. This is a very cool and family-friendly area. It was getting dark so we headed back to the boat.
As the show on Friday starts later (9:50) it was a push for us to stay up to see it, but since it is only 20 minutes long we did; our boat-guest Claire however, bailed just before it was over. It was a great ending to a great day.
Saturday (8/22) – Grand Haven, MI – It was a nice morning for a walk, so Claire and Denise put on their shoes and started with a hike down to the lighthouse on the South Pier. There were many people out walking or running, so we were in good company. We walked past the Coast Guard station and memorial they have along the water that pays tribute to all who have served and lost their lives on the water.
When we were done walking we went to the Farmers Market that they have every Saturday right near the marina. This was a really good market with various produce stands, bread makers, and several with fresh cut flowers, as well as vendors with other products as well. We purchased some bread and veggies then headed back to the boat for showers. There wasn’t much time before we would have to be leaving for the Grand Rapids airport.
We had decided to find a place for lunch along the way to the airport, so Mark took us to a Panera he had visited before. This area was familiar to him as we have an old client in the Muskegon area and Grand Rapids was a frequent airport stop. It just so happens that in the same shopping plaza there was a Penzy’s Spices and a Supercuts. Mark who was desperate for a cut, got seated right away, and in the meantime Claire and Denise went to Penzy’s where Claire was able to replenish a spice she uses all the time.
Too soon it was time to drop Claire at the airport and say goodbye. We have had a terrific week with her and we will miss having her aboard.
After we left the airport, we took advantage of the rental car to re-provision Island Office. We had already located the Costco and a Wal-Mart near the airport, and were able to stock up on everything from wine and granola bars to Frito Scoops (Mark) and Propel water (Denise). It was like making a mortgage payment! It took us nearly all afternoon to get these items, and we still managed to forget a few things!
After we returned from the shopping adventure we started looking at the weather and making plans to leave GH and go to Saugatuck tomorrow. We thought we might go to evening mass so that we would have options to leave early in the morning if the weather allowed. We knew TiKa was preparing to leave but the conditions were iffy for us.
We were standing around talking when Sid & Evelyn came up and we all began talking about our next moves. We decided we would stay on Sunday, secured a different slip in the marina for Sunday Night, and then ended up gathering on TiKa for impromptu docktails. An hour later we all decided to go get Pizza (TiKa, Something Special & us), then we watched the Music Fountain show – now shifted to 9:30 for the rest of the month.
Sunday (8/23) – Grand Haven, MI – We took advantage of the rental car and drove the 1 mile to St. Patrick & St. Anthony church for 8:00 am mass. We drove mainly because it was threatening to rain and we didn’t want to get wet.
By the time mass was over the rain had disappeared, but the wind had started to pick up. We went out for breakfast and when we returned to the marina, we saw that TiKa had left for Saugatuck. We later learned they arrived safely in under 2 hours and were happy to be tied up at a marina.
Back in Grand Harbor, we waited for the other slip to open up so we could move the boat. A severe thunderstorm came through with horrendous lightening and lots of wind, so no one was moving anytime fast.
Finally right at noon there was a break in the rainstorms and we were able to move to the other slip. This put us right next to Loopers AJ & Amy on “Gimme Time”, who had told us about the swell in this harbor. They said that the storms earlier in the week brought such rough swells that 3 boats broke lines, so we put out a few extra ones to ensure protection.
Shortly after getting tied up and having lunch, our credit union called about possible fraud charges on our (newly replaced in July) visa card. Kudos to our credit union for their proactive stance on this, but this is the second time on our Loop adventure we have had to do this (see Brewerton, New York). So now we would have to wait on new cards to be delivered to the marina before we could leave.
Normally, this would not be a problem, but the wind was really rough with waves in Lake Michigan reported at 5-8’ and the surge in the marina was awful! Our boats were rocking as if we were offshore in 2 foot seas. Mark added even more lines and re-tied a few others for added protection, and to try and hold us in place as much as possible.
We thought for sure they would cancel the Music Fountain show for the evening, but they did not. There were a lot less crowds then Friday & Saturday nights, but still many people came out to watch. These Michigan people are hearty!
That evening we went to a restaurant called the Dee Lite Bar and Grill with Sid & Evelyn (“Something Special”). It was mostly bar type food, but was good enough for us to enjoy sandwiches and great company with another Looper couple. While there we ran into another Looper from Canada (John) who was there with his son (Lee) and his girlfriend (Rhonda). They too were enduring the rolling in the Municipal marina. All of us talked about the bad weather and how it was messing with everyone’s plans. John was trying to get to Chicago so Rhonda could fly home next weekend, and they were considering making a direct crossing of Lake Michigan when the weather broke. This is a scary proposition as it was 90 miles and the weather on Lake Michigan can be unpredictable in August. We prefer running down the coast and around the bottom at Indiana.
All night long the boat rocked and the slapping of water against the hull, coupled with the strain on the lines made for difficult sleeping for Denise. Naturally, Mark slept well, but Denise had to move to the main salon settee, and still ended up watching a movie just to keep her mind off of her churning stomach. It is a horrible feeling to get seasick when the boat is tied up to the dock. Eventually sleep came, but only for a few hours.
Monday (8/24) – Grand Haven, MI – Unfortunately, morning did not bring any calm waters; in fact the wind was as strong as ever making the surge in the harbor even worse.
Denise decided to do two loads of laundry at the marina, mainly because she could get off the boat, but also because it was free. During that time she was able to talk with family members on the phone, while Mark was able to do some work on the boat. After a while she went for a walk, and in fact did anything that would allow her to stay off the boat. This worked ok until the late afternoon when it started to get cool and cloudy again.
Mark attempted to get us into another marina, but with no luck. They either didn’t call him back or they were already booked out as no one was leaving given the ugly weather conditions. Additionally, we knew we had to stay at least until the next morning when the new credit cards would be arriving via UPS-overnight service.
When it was time for dinner we asked Sid & Evelyn (“Something Special”) to join us, but they had planned to eat aboard their boat. So, we decided to go back to Porto Bello again as we liked their food and they were a close walk from the marina. We had another good meal and managed to have some leftovers to take back to the boat.
Afterwards we walked around downtown even though most shops were closed; anything just to stay off the boat. It was still quite windy and overcast, and it was getting colder.
Of all the marinas we have been in, this is the worst to have gotten stuck. The marina is unprotected from a west wind, and there is no cruisers lounge to offer reprieve. The only great thing going for it is the location to town, the Musical Fountain and the free laundry.
We opted to watch a movie on the boat where it was warm and dry. We interrupted it for the Music Fountain, but rejoined it soon afterward hoping it would help Denise fall asleep. It was a restless night again, with slightly better sleeping, but still waking to nausea.
Tuesday (8/25) – Grand Haven, MI – It is probably hard for our FL friends and family to imagine, but it was a freezing cold day today. The temperature was in the low 50’s again, with rain and winds howling. This was not a summer day, but more like a windy cold Florida winter day. Although the weather forecast for Tuesday looked much better, today was still awful.
Mark was able to get us a slip in the North Shore marina, located across the river and nearer the harbor entrance, but behind a breakwater. So, once the credit cards came we untiled from the Grand Haven Municipal marina and said goodbye to Sid & Evelyn (“Something Special”).
By lunch time we had moved the boat and tied up at North Shore; it made all the difference in the world. We spent the rest of the afternoon on the boat either working or writing this blog. We didn’t care that there was nothing but a marina and it was far away from town. We had plenty of food and didn’t need anything – plus this marina had cable tv and we were able to watch it for the first time in ages.
We ate leftovers for dinner and reviewed the weather for the next day. It looked good to make a run down to South Haven, so we planned for an early departure and went to bed with no boat movement at all. Yeah!
Here are some other pictures from Grand Haven:
Stay tuned for more adventures!