On Saturday, June 17, 2016, the weather for boating on northern Lake Michigan was excellent. Air temperature was about 85-degrees. Winds were light, about 4-knots from the southwest. Waves were less than one-foot. We simply had to take advantage of these conditions. We pulled our boat on its trailer to the Leland, Michigan marina and boat launch ramp. Here is a brief report.
Leland, Michigan, is a tourist destination and public parking is scarce. The boat launch ramp has the most public parking in the village, but most spaces are for vehicles with boat trailers. The harbormaster and his youthful assistants have wisely adopted a policy of putting traffic cones on all the empty boat trailer parking spaces to prevent their occupancy by passenger cars. When we arrived about one p.m. on Saturday, we were pleased to see that several empty boat trailer spaces remained, and we would have no problem launching and parking the trailer.
The recently rebuilt launch ramp has two lanes with a center courtesy dock. This would be our first chance to use the new ramp. Here are some technical details for the curious:
The down slope of the ramp is 14-percent, or an angle of 8-degrees downward. The ramp was cast in place as an 8-inch thick concrete slab laying atop 6-inches of aggregate stone. The end of the ramp is 4.4-feet below water at low water datum (LWD). At the ramp end there is a 1-in-5 downslope to the lake bottom to 8-feet below LWD. With the present lake levels the depth at the end of the ramp is over 7-feet, permitting almost any trailered boat to be launched there. The ramp surface has a finish groove set 60-degree to the slope of the ramp. (This is an important detail. Any water on the ramp runs off the ramp in these angled grooves to the downslope side of the ramp.) At end of ramp a rubber "prop wash" deflector is installed using 0.75-inch thick and 18-inch high rubber sheets. ABONMARCHE CONSULTANTS, Manistee, Michigan, were the architect-designers. You can find several photographs of the work and even more details in a prior cruise report. See
As we backed our boat down toward the southern lane of the ramp, two dock attendants came over to greet us. They informed us that a $10 launch fee would be due. After collecting the fee they both remained to offer assistance in launching. With the lake level about two-feet above chart datum, the courtesy dock was only about six inches above water. There was no debris or goose poop on the dock. The ramp surface was free of debris and seaweed and had a rough corrugated surface, providing very good traction and still easy to walk on. The water in the vicinity of the ramp was clear and free from any aquatic plants or other floating debris.
The ramp slope was perfect for launching. When I backed in so the waterline marks on my trailer guides were at my standard depth mark, the boat slid gently off the bunks with no hesitation. It was perhaps the easiest launching we've ever experienced.
I pulled the trailer up the ramp and into the parking space the dock attendant had opened for me by removing the traffic cones. The farthest parking space is less than 150-feet from the ramp, so the access is extremely handy and easy.
Back at the courtesy dock, the E-TEC engine started immediately with a push of the START button. We were ready to shove off from the dock in a matter of a minute or two from getting off the trailer.
As has been frequently reported in prior articles, the entrance to the Leland harbor of refuge is subject to shoaling. The mild winter of 2015-2016 provided no ice cover, so winter storm waves had open access to the sandy beaches adjoining the harbor entrance. As a result, about three-quarters of the harbor entrance is blocked by shoaling sand, leaving only a narrow gap along the rocky break wall. Three new floating aids mark the other side of the limited channel. The minimum depth noted on the Fathometer as we transited the harbor entrance was 6-feet. (This is measured from the transducer, so actual depth is more like 7-feet.)
Leaving the harbor we noted many people at the beach swimming and saw a water temperature of about 68-degrees-F on the SONAR. We made a course to Pyramid Point to the southwest, and ran on plane for about 20-minutes to cover the 9-miles to get there. There is a large sand dune at Pyramid Point and southward along the shore. We reduced speed to 5-MPH and slowly wandered south in about 10-feet-depths, admiring the dunes and other shoreline features. We made our way down to the vicinity of Port Oneida. On my chart plotter I had a couple of waypoints for some ship wrecks, but neither mark led us to anything interesting, either by visual observation or by SONAR. Water temperature in this more open area was down to around 62-degrees-F, which was too cold to invite any swimming, even though the air temperature was a very warm 85-degrees-F and there was little to no breeze.
Pyramid Point dunes seen from seaward. Lake Michigan is its normal blue color but abnormally calm in this view.
Another view of Pyramid Point looking southwest into open Lake Michigan
From the Port Oneida area we turned back to the North, eventually rounding Pyramid Point, and then entering Good Harbor Bay. We cruised the entire reach of the bay's shoreline at varying speeds, eventually rounding Carp River Point and then returning to Leland. It was almost 4 p.m., and we had enjoyed enough boating for the day.
After entering the harbor we found the launching ramp unoccupied. We moored to the courtesy dock. Two sea gulls were fighting over a small dead walleye fish that was on the ramp at the waterline. The dead fish didn't have much of a smell, so I suspect it might have been tossed there by an angler who wanted to get rid of an undersized fish or perhaps it just washed up there on its own.
I retrieved the truck and trailer from the adjacent parking lot. The boat loaded onto the trailer as easily as it has launched from it. The hull was completely clean and free of debris when it came out of the water, with no sign of a scum line to be scrubbed off. After putting on the tie-downs and safety bow strap, we pulled up the ramp and into the parking lot for a few minutes of further preparation for highway travel. When finally finished, we took a moment to run over to Carlson's Fishery to buy some fresh-caught Whitefish. They had only a few fillets left, and our timing was excellent. There was only one customer ahead of us. By the time we left, there were six or seven people in line, and I suspect they may have run out of whitefish.
I was quite surprised to find that in the five minutes or so that we left the boat in the launch parking ramp, a fellow Boston Whaler enthusiast came by with a digital camera and took a picture, which he posted almost immediately on Facebook. It is a good example of the small world of Boston Whaler enthusiasts. We did not meet the photographer as we did not see him taking the picture. I am sure it would have led to a good gam.
We weren't standing next to the boat for perhaps a total of five minutes, but that must have been when this picture was taken by a fellow Boston Whaler enthusiast, Tom Hammerslag. Hey Tom--next time say hello!
It was a great pleasure to use the launch ramp and parking facilities of Leland's harbor on a beautiful summer weekend. What a privilege to find a parking place, to not have to wait to launch or load, to have such a clean and well designed ramp, and to have such easy access to the beautiful water of the Great Lakes.
When we got home we prepared the whitefish for dinner. We coated the fresh whitefish fillets with some flour and then sautéed them in a pan with melted butter. For side dishes we had fresh steamed green beans and roasted redskin potatoes. I know you are supposed to have white wine with fish, but we had beer, a Bell's Brewery seasonal ale made with oats called OATSMOBILE.
We also bought some smoked lake trout from Carlson's. We had that a few days later. For that meal we really ate-local as the saying goes these days:
--smoked lake trout from Lake Michigan; Carlson's Fishery, Leland;
--Raclette cheese; Leelanau Cheese Company; Sutton's Bay;
--San Francisco Sourdough Bread: Stonehouse Bakery, Leland and Traverse City
--RED HOUSE RED table wine; Black Star Farms; Sutton's Bay
--OBERON Wheat Ale; Bell's Brewery; Kalamazoo and Comstock.
In the somewhat unnatural new ecology of Lake Michigan, the Lake Trout have learned to eat the invasive small fish species GOBY. The Goby eat the invasive species very small ZEBRA MUSSELS. One local told me that Lake Trout that have been feeding on Goby have a darker red flesh than other Lake Trout and are preferred for eating. The smoked lake trout was quite tasty--from ecological crisis to better tasting fish!
Accounts of trips taken in Boston Whaler boats; organization of rendezvous for Boston Whaler boats
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An aerial photo of the Leland harbor entrance appeared in an article about Dredging in the June 2016 Boat U.S. magazine. See: http://www.boatus.com/magazine/2016/jun ... crisis.asp