Half of the Misty Pearl crew—half of the human crew anyway—thinks the best thing about today is that there’s just one more day before the real start of college football. (The other half prefers watching the Cardinals. The boys prefer sleeping.) To celebrate, we took off at dawn for the 6-hour cruise down to Benton Harbor.
Speaking of Benton Harbor, all marina owners should take note of the St. Joseph West Basin Marina website and the websites of a few other marinas that do things right. Would it kill you to include a map with slip numbers?
Far too often we radio in, the teenagers who are manning (or womanning) the dock give us an assignment (assuming they respond at all), and then we have to rely on ambiguous or backwards or pure-on wrong directions, causing much unnecessary angst: “Go to the fuel dock (which never is well-marked), turn east (which we then have to figure out on the fly and which actually may be west), past the small yellow flag (which always is smaller than small and mixed in with a bajillion small colored flags flapping from every boat in the marina), and go in next to the blue sailboat (which of the dozen sailboats with blue hulls is the right one, Meathead?) Today we pulled up the map and had it handy well before they gave us the spot into which we easily slid. Nice.
Not too much time today in St. Joseph, but we did walk over to the concert in the park, which was better than most. We topped it off with some Mexican food and a mile walk—in the dark through the scary abandoned lots—back to the boat. The crazies from the Tri-State Regatta are rolling in tomorrow, and we’re here until at least Sunday. Plenty of time for some excitement.
We didn’t post much about Muskegon because, well, there wasn’t much to post about Muskegon. Mostly just rain. In fact, based on a sample size of 4 nights, we conclude that in Muskegon there always is a 20-knot wind, with thunder, lightening, and driving rain. More than 10 inches of it fell on us. Muskegon did teach us one valuable lesson though. When your boat starts listing several degrees to starboard, it’s probably because the plug is in the dinghy and the dinghy is filled with half a ton of water. Literally.
We did manage to visit the local museum during a brief weather lull. This wasn’t just another of the ubiquitous maritime museums that litter shoreline towns. Nope, this one was the best yet, by far. The USS Silversides is a retired submarine, and the museum focuses on the history of WWII in general with special attention on submarines and submariners. Good stuff, although the semi-racist caricature of the Japanese guy guarding the virginal nurses probably was a bit over the top for modern polite society.
We spent over an hour inside the sub, which remains afloat and semi-operational. Time to watch The Hunt For Red October again.
Last evening the skies cleared enough for a delightful picnic on the shore with Second Wave and Change of Pace. The boys came along as well. Oscar was in a mood.
We popped up before dawn feeling like we were gonna be alright. Yeah, the worst was over now. Heading south. The initial plan had been for a long day to Benton Harbor but we didn’t want to be stuck there over the holiday weekend. As we pulled away from Muskegon, the mornin’ sun was shinin’ like a red rubber ball. If only we knew a song from the sixties, by a one-hit wonder, with a thematically-appropriate chorus. Oh wait.
Easy 4-hour cruise down the lake, past the red lighthouse, and into Holland. The town in Michigan, not the country in Europe. Our buddy Fred was born in Holland, which explains the wooden shoes even though he grew up in East Tennessee.
When we reached Holland, the air was crisp with the smell of fall. The kind of day that makes one want to toss around the old pigskin. Even Misty Pearl is ready for football season.
When in Rome, they say, do as the Romans do. When in Holland, go the the big touristy windmill. So we did. It indeed is the biggest windmill we’ve ever seen, which isn’t saying much since the previous record-holder was on a mini-golf course next to a clown.
Actually the windmill and the park that surrounds it are pretty cool. The town itself also is pretty cool. We strolled around and watched the weekly Thursday evening street performances before heading home.
The prediction for this morning was light winds and small waves. We set an alarm for 5:45 in anticipation of a dawn departure. In fact there was no wind and we could see no waves. Excellent. Except they don’t call Ludington The Foggy City for nothing. We could see nothing but fog. Fog as far as the eye could see, which was about 50 feet.
One definitive sign of danger is when a ship the size of a city block is invisible. Remember the Badger? Here’s the Badger coming in on our first day in town (which seemingly was a year ago). Pretty easy to see, which means pretty easy to avoid. Now here’s the Badger executing the same clockwise spin this morning, from the same distance.
No navigation lights visible. No deck lights visible. The two stern lights are all one can see from just 100 stinking yards away. And if we see the Badger’s stern lights from our boat, it means we’ve already been smushed like we smush the spiders on our deck.
So no way we go, right? Even though the weather’s bad the next few days, better to buy a house in Ludington than get smushed like a spider, right? Maybe our judgment was clouded by Shannon heading back to college, or maybe the fact that everyone else took off gave us false bravado. Regardless, at the first sign of clearing we fired up the radar, turned on every light Misty Pearl could offer, tested the horn, and released the lines. Surely it’ll all burn off or blow away soon, right?
As soon as we turned the corner, things progressively worsened. FOR THE NEXT SEVEN HOURS. We couldn’t see that lighthouse we visited on the north breakwater—which we note with some irony was built entirely as an aid to navigation—until we were seconds from ramming it. Thank God for radar. Very quickly, however, we started feeling like every moving blip either was the Lusitania or a Somali pirate skiff. All we could see with our eyes was a wall. FOR SEVEN STINKING HOURS.
Of course, even when the flybridge was dripping in our faces we had to eat. So a moment to thank Chris and Jan, Ludington locals Shannon and Doug met while cruising the Hobies. Last night they stopped by with a huge slab from a salmon they caught moments earlier. (More impressive than their generosity to us is their dedication to disaster relief. Check out their organization Poured Out.) We fired up the grill and ate delicious salmon for lunch even though we barely could see where to stick the forks.
Basically we rode the radar, AIS, and fog horn FOR SEVEN STINKING HOURS. (One of us wanted to use this opportunity to work in a classic quote from that crotchety old rooster Foghorn Leghorn. Dana said the reference was waaaaay too obtuse even for a blog that often veers to the obtuse anyway.) The COLREGS require at least one long blast every two minutes. We did one long blast about every 10 seconds, particularly when we could see radar blips quickly approaching. As we neared Muskegon we heard responsive horns in what Dana observed was like a scary game of Marco Polo, although the object of the game was the exact opposite of finding each other.
The Lake Express ferry whizzed by at 31 knots about 75 yards off our bow on its way into Muskegon. Never saw it. The captain was all over the radio asking for Coast Guard assistance to get small boats out of the way in the channel. We tucked in behind the radar blip that was Change of Pace and still couldn’t see a thing. The Muskegon Lighthouse—effectively useless because it lacked a light and a fog horn—nearly was invisible from 100 feet.
The bright part of the day literally was the bright part of the day. Things cleared a bit in the channel, although commercial ships—technically known as BABs (Big Ass Boats)—still appeared out of nowhere. (Insert video of Mallory singing the Lefty Frizzell classic song, Saginaw, Michigan.)
We finally tied up, feeling like we’d been in a bar fight. Shannon made it to Eckerd safely. Mallory’s safe at Georgetown. Life is good after all.
*Blomo apparently is holding on to significant bitterness over the weather delay he experienced during his last visit.
Although we were stuck in Ludington, we held out hope for some excitement. Maybe the ferry would go down in the harbor and we could rescue everyone on our kayaks and videotape the whole thing and write a book and become rich and famous and play ourselves in the movie. Something. Anything. But nope. Nothing.
A Looper boat that will remain unnamed showed up with a very sick captain. Dinner at at PM Steamers with Second Wave, Felix (the catamaran, get it?), Corkscrew, Oar Knot, and Compass Rose on Thursday evening was about the last thing we did comfortably, although the band at the beach bonfire we checked out was solid.
The wind was a-howlin’ most all day Friday. We now know why they call Ludington The Windy City. It took all three of us to muscle the kayaks up onto the flybridge, although during a brief lull before that Shannon posed on one of them. There were confirmed wave heights of 8 feet out on the lake.
In prior posts we may have mentioned that—in round numbers—there are one zillion maritime museums along our route. Not surprisingly, there’s one in Ludington. The most shocking thing about the museum was tucked in a corner of the museum store. It was a poster proclaiming that Lake Michigan is the “Graveyard of The Great Lakes.” Hey wait a hot second! At the Oswego Maritime Museum a very similar poster—seemingly designed to dissuade us from crossing to Canada—said that the “graveyard of the Great Lakes” actually is Lake Ontario. Apparently every lake around here boasts of being the scariest and most dangerous. We’re calling this the Great Great Lakes Poster Scam. It’s like the producers of Caddyshack 2 claiming their product is funny. Apparently the poster company counts on people only visiting one maritime museum.
Saturday morning brought solid rain, forcing us to entertain ourselves on board. It only takes so long to replace filters and wash dishes. Sometimes on crap weather days we let our artistic talents loose. Ludington has a bunch of sculptures scattered about, so we considered some metal work.
We remembered, however, that we don’t have welding equipment or materials. Nope, our medium is photography. We call this piece “Crap Weather Through Porthole: A Study.” If the town had an exhibit of photos almost certainly they would want to feature our submission as prominently as the abstract metal sail.
The rain stopped long enough to allow a final round of laundry before Shannon packed up.
Speaking of Shannon, she’s leaving us tomorrow to head back to college at Eckerd. Since her field of study includes marine ecology, during the rain she spent some time inside researching sponges that live in sub-aquatic pineapples. We think she’s well-prepared for an exceptional academic year.
There was a change of pace as the skies cleared and Jeff and Terri—aboard our sister Selene 43 Changeof Pace—finally caught up with us. They joined us for dinner. Great folks. We hope to see them again soon.
So the weather has stuck us in Ludington for who-knows-how-many-more days. There’re worse places to be stuck but Ludington has run its course. We’re fighting the urge to let boredom push us into certain death, since in the harbor it’s gorgeous. But the big water has 4-footers from the west, building to 8-10 by Saturday. That’s way too many feet. Grrr.
Mostly we feel bad for Shannon, who now is Shannon was forced to sleep most of the day in a sleepy Michigan town rather than sleep most of the day while we cruise, but at least she got in a little kayak time.
Ludington is sandwiched between Lake Michigan and Pere Marquette Lake, which is named for Father Jacques Marquette. There are murals all over Ludington, including one depicting that time the good Father shrewdly traded a cheap Chinese rifle and rusty hatchet for all of the Natives’ ancestral lands and then they made s’mores on the beach.
Ludington also is about mid-way down the Michigan coast, and at about the narrowest place to cross Lake Michigan over to Wisconsin. The S/S Badger is the last coal-powered steamship on the Great Lakes, and ferries things and folks across to and from Wisconsin. The Badger coming in is a big time for the locals in Ludington, who flock to the lakeside to watch. This either speaks well of the boat or speaks poorly of the town, of course, since the boat docks twice a day. We flew the drone over to check it out up close. There may or may not have been a black-box obscuring the screen with a no-fly warning and it was getting dark, so we didn’t get the best of the video possibilities but it’s all we have.
Since this is lighthouse country, we strolled out the north breakwater to the aptly named North Breakwater Lighthouse. Inside we found a photo from November 10, 1975.
That’s right, this is the Lake Michigan tip of the storm that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior the same day. The significance of all that of course is the unexpected opportunity to work in another Gordon Lightfoot line. Does anyone know where the love of God goes, when the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The next day we drove a rental car up to the Big Sable Light.
From the shore the waves looked pretty big. From the top of the lighthouse they still looked pretty big.
Until recently, we’ve slept quite well aboard Misty Pearl without incident. About a week ago though—at 3 a.m.—someone was shrieking “Help! Help!” and banging on the hull. Clearly some woman was dying. The below-deck hallway isn’t particularly wide, and there are odd angles and steps to get to the salon and out to see what’s happening. It’s hard enough for klutzes like us to avoid what we call boat bruises in broad daylight; at night it’s impossible. So hearts racing we leapt up and bounced off the corners like groggy pinballs (but without the pleasing electronic sound of scoring points). Turned out Mallory was having a bad dream. Relieved, but still tough to fall back asleep.
One night in Ludington—at about 1 a.m.—someone was on the foredeck shining a flashlight, the beam of which bounced down into our cabin. Clearly some dude was trying to steal the kayaks or the chart plotter or warming up to drop through the hatch and murder us like Herb and Bonnie Clutter. So hearts racing we leapt up again, pinballed off the corners again, and started yelling at the intruder. Turned out Shannon decided to retrieve something she left up there. In the middle of the night. Relieved again, but still tough to fall back asleep. In both instances, our loyal guard dogs stayed on the bed. As far as we could tell, at most they were annoyed at the ruckus.
We’ve now seen Mamma Mia 2, washed the boat, done laundry, been to the grocery store and Lowe’s, picked up yet more medicine for Benny, taken the obligatory tourist photo, and seen about all there is of Ludington. The blog post for the rest of this stop might be pretty thin unless we stumble on something interesting.