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Be Prepared

Last summer we “harbor hopped” north up the Sunset Coast, the eastside of Lake Michigan.  We researched and scouted 11 potential harbors to stop and visit.  We weren’t planning to stop at all of them, but we wanted to be prepared in case we needed to seek shelter from the weather or had some unfortunate issue that would force us to change plans. 

Having options and being prepared is good.  I can remember my father saying, “A mouse with one hole is easily caught.”  To me, it means that I’m always creating and having options available to pivot and hopefully avoid disaster.

Kyle untying dock lines

We need to Pivot

Heading out to the lake

Our second stop on the trip was Muskegon – it wasn’t planned.  Originally, our plan was to stop at Grand Haven but the weather was showing a significant front with westerly winds creating wave potential of 6 – 9 ft waves!  Grand Haven is a great city, but the municipal marina is not protected from westerly waves.  There’s significant surging that makes sleeping and being on the boat at the marina uncomfortable – especially since we were just in South Haven with a similar situation and running very low on sleep!  So … we decided to make the extra trek past Grand Haven and up to Muskegon.

Getting There

Fortunately, we found a private marina, Safe Harbor Great Lakes, that had availability of an open transient spot for several nights.  While we were only planning to stay 1 or 2 nights, we wanted the option to stay longer if the weather did not calm down.  The jump from South Haven to Muskegon was gorgeous, with a spectacular sunrise and great weather along the way.  At the end of the long day, as we approached Muskegon, the wind started to kick up, but we had no issues on entrance to the harbor because it has a large entrance to Muskegon Lake. 

Muskegon harbor entrance

We never visited Muskegon by boat before and the first time entering a harbor can have some heightened stress and nerves – especially on my part.  It’s important that Kara and I communicate clearly what we are seeing.  It makes following navigational plans and maps easier when we have both of our perspectives. 

We navigated right into the marina, but didn’t know exactly where our slip assignment was – it’s very difficult to see the slip numbers from a big moving boat – especially when there’s so much to be looking out for.  I headed to the fuel dock, hoping that by then we could figure out where our spot was and if nothing else we would still have room to turn around.  SV Zeke E Boy requires a large radius to get turned around and we don’t want to run into anything.  Thankfully, the plan worked!  We spun around at the fuel dock, saw the slip location and docked our boat without issue.

The marina folks were very kind and helped us dock.   Once we’re tied up and secure, I always try to find other local boaters to discuss what I saw and if there are any dangerous shallow spots to watch out for. 

SV Zeke E Boy docked with sunset

People at the marina are usually more friendly when you don’t come in crazy and run into things. And most fellow boaters enjoy these discussions because we can help each other. 

Because of the winds and weather that we were hiding from, it felt colder the further north we traveled.  But since this marina had a swimming pool, we had to take advantage of it anyway.  At least the sun was out so we could lounge by the pool reading magazines and chat about our journey so far … like we usually do in New Buffalo.

Pleasantly Surprised

Muskegon is a fairly large town that surrounds Muskegon Lake, which is connected to Lake Michigan.  There is a High-Speed Ferry that crosses Lake Michigan to Milwaukee.  Folks will use it to get to Wisconsin and avoid the crazy Indiana roads like I94 and I80 as well as other Chicago traffic.  From our slip, we saw the ferry come and go but we never really felt the waves from the boat – I guess we were tucked away nicely. 

Walking distance to the marina was a small retail and food strip.  We enjoyed an amazing dinner and craft drinks made to order at Wonderland Distilling Co.  There’s something about good food after a long day on a Great Lake that just tastes so good. 

Kara at Wonderland Distillery

Safe and Sound

Kyle eating pizza on SV Zeke E Boy

That evening the weather and winds did kick up and we were so thankful to be tucked away in a protected marina!  In the morning, we walked about 3 miles from the marina to the coast guard station, beach and harbor entrance.  It was still windy, but a very nice walk.  There’s a bike / walking path that we could take. 

Muskegon feels like a growing town, because there seemed to be quite a bit of building investment.  It definitely seems like a town I would enjoy living in.

Our second dinner, we stopped at Rolling Stone Wood Fired Pizza Co., which started as a food truck and expanded to a brick and mortar location walkable to the marina.  We would definitely recommend a trip to Muskegon and we’ll hopefully be back soon.  Possibly even go back to the same spots – it’s hard to pass up good food!

Kara's legs on deck watching sunset
Kyle scratching head sitting in the cockpit

Off We go Again

From Muskegon, we were planning to go north directly to Ludington – looking for a good weather window.  Initially, the 3rd morning didn’t look good to leave, but later that morning, it seemed that the winds were dying down.  We don’t enjoy being on the lake in big waves.  While we check weather on ~ 4 different apps, there’s nothing like seeing it with your own eyes.  So we quickly walked just over 2 miles to the lake to verify what we were seeing online and decided to leave that morning instead of the next day.  We basically ran back to the boat to leave as soon as possible.  We estimated arriving in Ludington near dusk but we thought it was best to leave and not wait until the next day when the weather shifted again.  It proved to be the best choice and off to Ludington we headed! 

SV Zeke E Boy leaving Muskegon harbor

Tell us what you think

Let us know what you think of our sailing adventures by sharing your feedback in the comments below. What’s your favorite thing to do in the sunset coast of Lake Michigan?  Where do you go?  We’d love to hear from you! 

– Kyle from Zeke Life

Live like Zeke
You’re such a good boy!

Kyle looking at Chicago sunset from SV Zeke E Boy

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