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Our Sailing Trip on Lake Michigan

For our long summer trip we planned to “Harbor Hop” north along the eastern shores of Lake Michigan to Ludington and back.  During our prep and planning for the trip, we found 11 potential harbors to stop at.  As we got closer to the “scheduled” time to leave, we paid more attention to weather predictions.

The eastern shores of Lake Michigan are called the “Sunset Coast” because you can watch the sun set in the West from shore.  We can attest to this – enjoying many amazing sunsets all year long. 

SV Zeke E Boy docked in South Haven Marina

The area is also primarily sand dunes with what seems like a non-stop beach – especially from Muskegon to Ludington.  Most of the communities along the way are built around a river or small lake that feeds into Lake Michigan.  And each town along the coast is interesting with things to do and great food (and craft beer).

SV Zeke E Boy tied up in South Haven

As we prepared to leave, I pushed us to go sooner and found what I thought was a good weather window …  We had about a half day to make our first jump north to South Haven before a storm blew in.  Typically we have had trouble predicting weather and do not want to get caught out on Lake Michigan if the weather kicks up putting ourselves in danger. 

Thankfully we planned well and the weather held off until we got to South Haven.  We only had 90 minutes before the storm came – but that was enough to tie up and settle in. 

Over the next day, it rained – A LOT.  We discovered new leaks in the boat that rain water would drip, one of which is around the mast and water ended up right where we sleep.  Kara was woken up to dripping water on her face and the bungee nightstand had to be drained and moved. 

South Haven has an active maritime museum that operates several boating tours.  The downtown is slightly higher on a hill above the municipal marina we were staying at.  We visited several shops and ate at several places in the downtown area. But because it rained quite a bit, we spent a fair amount of time on SV Zeke E Boy waiting out the weather.

Our next stop was going to be Grand Haven, but the weather window we were targeting showed a stronger storm coming the day after we would arrive that would put direct swells into the Grand Haven harbor (from the West) and make staying there uncomfortable.  So we changed our plans and were able to reserve a slip in Muskegon, 11 nm further up the coast. 

Kyle on the bow with navigation lights on

Again we picked a great day to travel and beat the weather.  In fact, there were 6 sailboats in South Haven, and 5 of them were leaving that day, including us!  The marina in Muskegon that we stayed at was next to the Fast Ferry that takes passengers across Lake Michigan in 2.5 hours.  Thankfully the marina was very well protected and we waited out the weather for 2 days.  Again, we found several awesome places to eat, we walked to Pere Marquette public beach and even swam and lounged in the marina pool – waiting for our next weather window.

sunrise in New Buffalo channel
sunrise on Lake Michigan

The last jump north to Ludington was again a success.  We picked a great day and this time we were not racing weather – in fact, the lake calmed down all day.  Ludington has a very well protected harbor as well and navigated into our slip with a bit of confusion on my part.  After a long day on the water my brain just forgot math – I got confused and couldn’t decipher even numbers from odd.  I must be getting old – Kara just laughed at my confusion and with her help, we navigated safely to our dock.   

Kyle working on the engine

Our engine gave us some sputtering issues right when we were entering Ludington, which made the marina docking a little bit too exciting.  Fortunately she kept going and we were able to pull in without issue.  I believe it was a clogged fuel filter.  I had polished all the fuel earlier in the summer, but didn’t change the filters and they were due. 

Thankfully I have two spares of each onboard and did the replacement the next day and tested the engine successfully. 

Having gone through several fuel filter clogging issues and working to resolve the system, I have discovered that our fuel filter housing and fuel lines are originally 1996 and potentially starting to fail from the inside out and prematurely clogging fuel filters, so this is now our #1 winter project on the list.

Ludington is another very enjoyable town, great food and fun places to visit.  The Badger operates out of Ludington, when we visited it was not running due to some repairs.  Also, the fishing for salmon was active to say the least, I thought there was a tournament going on, but nope just peoples regular lives with hundreds of boats all seemingly right next to each other and many catching fish! 

fisherman in Ludington bay

We spent 3 days there and started planning around the weather for the trip home.

sunset in Ludington with SV Zeke E Boy in background

We found a weather window and instead of stopping at Muskegon on the way back, we traveled further to Grand Haven.  We got there with plenty of daylight and was able to watch a musical fountain show that evening.  Because we had 2 straight good days, we made a short stay in Grand Haven overnight and left 45 min before dawn to travel the 85 nm all the way back to New Buffalo and our home port this season.  It was good to be home.

I learned a lot about myself and built up some confidence to do more trips like this and even go for longer periods.  We learned to take the weather windows to avoid too much wind and waves, but it would be more enjoyable if we take things a bit slower and stay at each place a little longer. 

We’re still learning to adapt to SV Zeke E Boy, how she moves, how she sounds and how we feel. 

Yes, we successfully navigated into and out of several new harbors – thankfully most places had very helpful dockhands.  And we always thoroughly  talk about our disembarking and docking plans – especially so Kara knows what I’m thinking and trying to do. 

SV Zeke E Boy docked along Grand River

Most importantly, we’re learning to be more present in the moment – especially when were on the boat.  There’s very little to do hopping from port to port, and there’s absolutely no point in talking or worrying about the future.  When traveling on the Great Lakes – especially on a sailboat, you can’t guarantee everything will happen as planned and have to be prepared that travel may take longer than expected.  Thinking about what is planned for tomorrow – or even for dinner that night – is not relevant at the moment.

Kyle and Kara selfie in the cockpit
leaving Ludington Bay at dawn

Tell us what you think

Kyle relaxing with beers

We’d love to hear from you!  Let us know what you think of our sailing adventures by sharing your feedback in the comments below. What’s your favorite place to visit along the sunset coast of Lake Michigan?  Where else should we take SV Zeke E Boy

– Kyle from Zeke Life

Live like Zeke
You’re such a good boy!


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