Saugatuck, Michigan, September 2015

Accounts of trips taken in Boston Whaler boats; organization of rendezvous for Boston Whaler boats
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Dutchman
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Saugatuck, Michigan, September 2015

Postby Dutchman » Wed Oct 14, 2015 11:06 am

A couple of weeks ago on September 27, 2015, I decided I needed some adventure. I had seen enough of the inland lakes here in southwest Michigan, and I decided the big lake would be a nice change of scenery. I drove up to the lovely towns of Saugatuck and Douglas, and I put in the boat at the ramp on North Union Street (42 38.875' N 86 12.161' W), right off Blue Star highway in Douglas. At the North Union Street ramp there is lots of parking because there used to be a Maritime Museum: the SS Keewatin a 1907 passenger ferry with wooden super structure, docked in 1967 there. Sadly she was sold and moved back to her home port Port McNicholl in Ontario. This is the ramp used by "The Duck", a tourist-attraction World War II amphibious vessel that seat approximately 20 people and tours the harbor and Kalamazoo River between both towns.

There are several ramps in the town besides the marina ramps. In the town of Saugatuck is another ramp, again used by "The Duck", and you could launch there. But there is no parking. A little to the east farther up river from the ramp I used is Schultz Park County Park ramp, with hundreds of parking spaces and an honor payment system, four launches, and two finger docks.

As the river is a long no-wake drive to the big lake, I knew I could spend some time idling down and or up river. I decided to check out the big Lake as the forecast called for 1-foot to 2-foot and make a trip south to South Haven, approximately 17 nautical miles on the big Lake, or 46 miles round trip. Getting out of the pier heads it was rougher, two-foot to three-foot, than I thought, and with the northwest wind, I decided, to go North to Holland into the waves as my return trip would be easier. I put on my PFD and safety switch lanyard and started to slam over the waves--being a Montauk I was constantly adjusting throttle. Kalamazoo River pier to Lake Macatawa pier (or "Big Red" as the lighthouse is known) is only 5.7-nautical miles, so very do-able. Within 15 minutes Big Red was in sight and 25 minutes later I was between pier heads in calm water.

I have a friend who has a boat at The Poor Man's Yacht Club at Elgin Marina--full service with fuel, 42 46.117'N 86 12.079'W--just on the south side after entering Lake Macatawa. He wasn't there as he was enjoying the 15-20 knot wind on the Lake in his 36-foot sail boat. It was lunch time so I decided to run the Lake east, past the private Tiara Yachts marina and lodge on to Boat Werks (42 47.383'N 86 7.310'W) a nice restaurant right on the water with good food and drinks and a courtesy dock.

Had a nice bite and a beer and checked the weather again. Wind was forecasted to pick up and I decided I better get back. I raced at wide-open-throttle (35 statute miles per hour) the length of Macatawa and out onto the big Lake. When I turned South I saw a boat moving pretty quickly toward Saugatuck, and even though the swell was a little larger at two to four feet, felt I could catch up with him. The little boat rode a lot better in these following seas, but due to the short wave length here on Lake Michigan she was still slamming. Again playing the throttle with sometimes wide-open, I didn't seem to catch the boat in front of me. Less then 15 minutes later I was in the safety of the Kalamazoo river, and I found out that the center console in front of me was a Sheriff boat. Being a no wake river it took me a little to catch up with the two officers and asked them how fast they were running from Holland. On the Lake I was unable to check as I was to busy holding on for dear life, operating the boat, and not looking at my handhelds. He said about 30-statue-miles-per-hour, and I thought, "that's why I didn't catch them." They were in a 27-foot or larger Grady-White with twin Yamaha 150-HP engines. I was surprised because most law enforcement here uses Boston Whaler.

I got back to the ramp. The ramp has a nice drinking hole at the end of the pier there called "The Red Dock Cafe" with ample floating courtesy docks; I had another refreshment. I never opened my stocked cooler in front of my CC except to get a water out for the hour drive home after a fantastic afternoon on my little boat. She handled the water as long as I could and I did with a smile from ear to ear and music blaring. What a great afternoon, what would have made it a little better was putting water in my bow anchor locker to give it some extra weight up front for smoother riding.

EJO
EJO
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jimh
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Re: Saugatuck, Michigan, September 2015

Postby jimh » Wed Oct 14, 2015 7:15 pm

Thanks for the trip report from Saugatuck. I have never been to that southern Lake Michigan port. The few times I have been out in the southern half of Lake Michigan there have always been rather big waves. I need to go with Kevin Albus sometime, because whenever he is in Lake Michigan it is always completely calm.

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Dutchman
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Re: Saugatuck, Michigan, September 2015

Postby Dutchman » Wed Oct 14, 2015 8:52 pm

Yeah, Jim, you are right. We always have more waves here then say north of Ludington--must be that always-blowing NW wind. Even east of the Door County peninsula is better, and Chicago to Milwaukee.

Due to that, my wife made me sell the big cabin cruiser, and then the sailboat, as I would go sailing when there was wind and therefore waves which she hates. Love our Whaler that was the replacement. Trailering opens up so much more boating.
EJO
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50th edition 2008 Montauk 150, w/60HP Mercury Bigfoot

PeteB88
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Re: Saugatuck, Michigan, September 2015

Postby PeteB88 » Fri Oct 16, 2015 9:31 pm

Thanks for the report - We live North between Grand Haven and Muskegon a couple of blocks from Spring Lake and boat ramp at Fruitport Village. We should haul down to Saugatuck sometime and do a similar trip. Our go to port is usually Whitehall from Muskegon which is very nice.

Jim - If you worry about conditions on Lake Mich the time to come over is when there are East winds. We had almost a week of East wind days two weeks ago and it was admirable. East wind means near shore is flat, sometimes glass smooth. Down side is it blows the warm water out to open lake which is displaced by cold water. Beach temps can go from mid - high 70s to low 60s in a very short time period - couple of days. Captains watch very carefully the fronts, how they rotate and calculate their time on the water by wind direction forecast if the fronts are coming in. East wind nullifies all that. Up side of cold water displacing warm water is game fish come closer to shore.

See ya soon.

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Re: Saugatuck, Michigan, September 2015

Postby Dutchman » Fri Oct 16, 2015 9:53 pm

Yes pete East winds are the best especially if you stay within a mile or so.
I boat on Spring Lake too also a nice area as is White Lake (Whitehall) picked up my sailboat there 7 years ago and sailed it to South Haven in early May @ 35 deg F & 20 knots wind was cold and a blast 83 nm in 13 hrs.
Quicker with a Boston Whaler now but you have to wait for an East wind
EJO
"Clumsy Cleat"look up what it means
50th edition 2008 Montauk 150, w/60HP Mercury Bigfoot