To Saugatuck (Day 26-27)


What comes to mind when I think of Saugatuck? Expensive! Hot! Doesn’t sound great, but it actually was an enjoyable 2-day visit overall.

Passing Grand Haven lighthouse on the way out.

I wanted more than one evening in Grand Haven, but this journey is always dictated by weather. It remained favorable, so we moved on. (The goal for this first stage is to leave the Great Lakes before the fall winds start up – i.e., aim for Chicago by the end of August. We are on track for that.) We’re also learning that shorter travel days are better, so we aim for 25-mile legs (about three hours) when we have a choice. Grand Haven-to-Saugatuck is such a leg…about 31 miles.

We had heard Saugatuck is a charming town. It is. (And the entry to it is also charming — the meandering Kalamazoo River.) We did not hear that it’s also expensive. The dockage fee was the highest we’ve encountered so far — $85, for our boat. We’d been at a pier for days, so we decided to anchor out instead.

We chose an anchorage near a marina. Soon after we set anchor, the marina manager hailed us from a nearby pier to inform us that dingy docks were available for public use across the lake. I thought he was being nice. Jeff informed me that, on the contrary, he was concerned that we might try to use his docks to get ashore. Oh well. I still prefer to assume the best of a stranger’s motives.

It was another very hot day, and I worked up a sweat just setting the anchor. After a quick cooling on-board shower, we took the dingy across the lake to get a look at the village. It was my first glimpse of designated “dingy docks,” and I found them charming. I’ve never seen them in the U.P. It’s another indicator that this is a huge boating community.

Another indicator: the huge yacht that seemed ready to drive up the street! (See photo.)

Unfortunately, I couldn’t enjoy the town much due to a disconcerting bout of heat exhaustion. (Flushed face, cold sweats, exhaustion, slight nausea.) I rested in shade every block or so, but that didn’t help much. I tried the air-conditioned relief of stores, but felt foolish pretending to shop. We retreated back to the boat and rested until evening, when…

What a show! An approaching storm can be disconcerting on the water, but our anchorage was secure so it was just plain fun to watch the thunder clouds arrive and the lightning show pass through. We swung at anchor a lot that night due to shifting winds. My sleep was fitful, noticing each change in the water-sounds on the hull and glancing out to see if we were moving too close to the marina. I’ll learn to trust Jeff’s anchoring judgment! (I hope.)

We intended to leave the next morning but weather dictated otherwise. The forecast was favorable but the conditions were not. (This happens on the Great Lakes. Apparently, accurate forecasting is more difficult here than in many places.) We ventured out into the big lake twice, only to turn back each time. It wasn’t just the size of the waves, but their direction and frequency. Boaters have terms for how conditions feel — “rolling,” “lumpy,” “bumpy,” etc. We felt all of these. At once. Even Boo the Cat yowled loudly. Experienced boaters say that the smartest decision sometimes is to turn around. We did – and had the most relaxing day at anchor, in the sweetest cove, close to the big lake. We watched the silly little rental boats come and go, and the paddle-wheel tour boat with its loud narrator, all traveling the river. I took the dingy ashore to explore and took several luxurious swims. The sunset was glorious. The anchorage was quiet. Lovely. On to South Haven tomorrow.

While we waited for the lumpy seas to quiet down, I had plenty of time to take the dingy ashore.
These are called “donut boats.” Tourists rent them. For about $100/hour!
The best solution to an over-heated body!
The paddle wheel boat continued into evening, lights a-blazing. It went out into the big lake for a brief visit, and I wondered how many tourists on-board got seasick.
We passed this on the Kalamazoo River. I’ve never seen a chain ferry before. I assume it gets pulled across on the chain you see from its bottom right. Pulling tourists, I imagine.
So we were kept here an unplanned 2nd night, at anchor. So? Here’s the reward! After 7 p.m., we had the cove to ourselves.

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