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Our late summer 2023 trip on the boat is to harbor hop North along the sunset coast (eastern side) of southern Lake Michigan from New Buffalo to Ludington and back home.  There are 11 harbor towns on our list for potential stops.  Planning for the trip is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming all of the decisions to make.  I’ll share how I plan a trip so the preparation is really enjoyable. 

SV Zeke E Boy leaving NB harbor entrance

Initial Planning & Budget

We are avid Google Drive fanatics (well, really Kara is) – everything we do is in a shared Google doc or sheet.  While I haven’t quite got the hang of things, Kara started out mapping a list of the 11 harbor towns with a rough schedule that includes dates, distance between, price, number of potential nights, how to book, etc. in a google sheet. 

This was a great way to get a rough estimate and budget for the dock fees.

Kara resting on SV Zeke E Boy

Researching Harbors

South Haven red lighthouse

We are members of the Great Lakes Cruising Club, and they have solid Harbor Reports for boaters to use in their preparations.  The reports are not perfect and don’t cover everything we need, but they are a great start.  I built a physical binder with all my notes and reports in order.  On the water we lose cell phone/internet coverage often, so having a paper copy of notes is important.  

I researched each harbor on the map that we would potentially be stopping at or passing by on our trip.  Making sure we had nautical charts and planning potential navigation paths into each harbor and figuring out where the marinas are and details about them …

What kinds of docks do they have, floating or fixed?  What’s the best path to take – where are the shallow spots, etc.?  I called several of the marinas and talked to them a few weeks before we planned on being there and learned how each one handles booking reservations for transient boaters.  Most are online, but with different apps or sites to use.

Prepping the Boat

After I was familiar with the route from a navigational perspective, we could jump to prepping SV Zeke E Boy with food and personal items.  It is fun to plan meals and pack clothes and load up the boat with gear for the trip.  I also make sure I have spare mechanical parts and review where everything is stored on the boat for easy access.  It’s sorta messy when I forget and have to open all of the cushions and storage just to find something.

food packed in boat fridge
clothes stacked in boat bedroom

Predicting the Weather

Yes, it’s impossible, but the last thing I research is weather predictions.  It’s pretty unreliable until the day before so no need to spend much time on this until the trip gets close – although I’ll start looking 1 – 2 weeks before a trip to get a rough idea of potential dates to leave.  

We’ll need to dodge storms and pick our weather window prudently.  We’ve seen southern Lake Michigan go from calm to 7-9’ waves in a matter of a few hours, so getting caught off guard in bad weather out on the lake can be very dangerous!  

Because we don’t know how long we’ll stay at the various harbors, we’ll start booking with a larger window.  If we cancel within 24 hours, most of the time, there is no charge – except maybe losing a processing fee, which is worth it to be on the safe side.

Future Planning

Preparing for our big summer trip was really enjoyable, it opened my mind for longer trips on SV Zeke E Boy in the future.  Drinking water takes up a lot of space, so figuring out a better plan for that will be needed.  Also, as we get better at anchoring and more comfortable with mooring, it’ll expand where and when we can stop. 

In the meantime, based on my research, I can’t wait to explore and experience each of the unique and interesting towns along the sunset coast this summer! 

SV Zeke E Boy sailing on Lake Michigan

Tell Us what you think

Kyle at the helm

How do you plan trips?  Do you have any other recommendations?  Please share your feedback in the comments below.

– Kyle from Zeke Life

Live like Zeke
You’re such a good boy!

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