How the Other Half Lives — South Haven, MI

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This  litte port, like Charlevoix, I’d put on the Looper’s can’t miss list:  a new municipal marina, four places to buy espresso drinks in a two-block radius, restaurants galore (including Su Casa, a very good Mexican place we tried, and Clementine’s, a tablecloth place with lines out the door).  Also a grocery, UPS store and hardware.

And a bakery  (Golder Brown).  Bakeries are becoming the test of a Memsahib- friendly town.   A bakery seems to signal three things 1) people who care about fresh food 2) a town with enough tourists wandering around  to support the other good Looper things (cappucino, bookstores, places that grind their own sausage) 3) a breakfast that I don’t have to make.

But food and shoppes are never enough, and South Haven also has the very excellent Great Lakes Maritime Museum ,with a well-preserved fishing tug (I found out they don’t call them boats), a recreation of a war of 1812 sloop, and a very well done Coast Guard exhibit.  Also, the requisite War of 1812 exhibit (that’s three this trip).  Really ugly in these parts — mostly raiding back and forth across the lakes in retribution for previous raids.  The War of 1812 was a mess like most wars and I’ve been hit with a lot of it on the trip.  It is surrounded by the glow of the successful  war at sea and the birth of the U.S. Navy.  But it was a waste and disaster in terms of life and property loss on land and should have never been fought.  It was the Iraq/Afganistan of 200 years ago and nothing much seems to have been learned from it.

Spent some time with another great diesel engine on the fishing tug — a Kahlenberg semi-diesel.  They start with gas to warm the cylinders, then run on the equivalent of heating oil.  The thing is, the fishermen started them on Monday, and shut them off on Friday, running continuously in between.  That’s not odd for these old, simple diesels — I just read a story about a Gardner diesel in a Scottish fishing boat being converted to a yacht that was started in Scotland, and turned off next in Panama.  Some of us spend our declining years fascinated by old cocktail waitresses. I am more inclined to old diesel engines.

South Haven Marina — Almost Empty Post Labor Day

South Haven Shoppes

Great Lakes Maritime Museum

Great Lakes Fish Tug



Mistake in Muskegon

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I wanted so badly for Muskegon to exceed the extraordinarily low expectectations of my fellow cruisers.  Even the Port Captain of the Great Lakes Cruisers Club  for Muskegon (on his boat in Ludington) seemed to wince when I mentioned our plans.

But Muskegon was the right distance, I had a great brochure on all the cool new stuff downtown, we were going to stay at the municipal marina right in town  and cruisers should help cities that have had a tough time.  Visions of bakeries, exotic cuisine and fresh farmers market provisions danced in our heads.

Then we arrived at the half-deserted marina surrounded by chain link and barbed wire.  A deserted factory looms over it.  The really nice dock people explained that lockdown is at 8 pm — nobody in, nobody out without a key.  Downtown was deserted on a Sunday, and I couldn’t even see any closed cool new places.  The farmers were masquerading as heavily armed police.  We rode our bikes for miles to find a diner.

The saving grace for me is that downtown is also the home of the LST 393 Musuem — a real, restored World War II Landing Ship Tank.  Good old 393 made 30 trips to Omaha beach on D-Day and fought in 75 actions delivering 75,000 men and 3,000 vehicles to war.

I spent a lot of time in the engine room with the two V-12 Detroit diesels — 6.5 inch bore, 18-inch stroke.  All the parts were the same as Memsahib’s little tractor diesel.  I thought “There are the injectors, there’s the fuel pump, there’s the starting compressor” — I was an ignition key away from arriving  at Key West in an LST!!

Anyway — Muskegon has a lot going for it — a new bike trail, a new downtown park right on the water, a great location.  Just not ready for Looper prime time yet.

View from Marina, Muskegon

Landiing Ship Tank 393

Door for the tanks

As promised

Stuck in Michigan

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Blog Notes:  The About the Voyage page has been filled in.  There is also a page with a map that automatically shows where we are.

Stuck three days in Ludington, MI due to extremely high winds.  I am just not used to this — sunny, warm and 30 knots.  In New England 30 knots means gray, cold and raining.  I guess these extremes between high and low pressure areas are what spawn the tornadoes.

Ludington is not a bad place to be stuck.  Nice municipal marina, downtown that’s still alive with restaurants and a great gourmet grocery (Best Choice).  Had two excellent meals — Luciano’s (red sauce Italian, but really good red sauce Italian) and barbecue take-out from “Bones and Butts” started by  a Kentucky guy who thought Michigan people weren’t getting enough ribs.  Luciano came out to see the tourists — about 70 years old, chefs coat, chefs clogs and pajama bottoms with what appeared to be little kangaroos on them.  Hey — it’s hot back there with the raviola and veal parmigiana!

But the big deal in Ludington is the Badger — a 451-foot coal fired ferry that crosses to Wisconsin once a day and an overnight trip.  A wonderful sight, in continuous service since 1952 — almost as long as I’ve been in continuous service.

Some nut case is trying to close the Badger down because of the coal.  This cannot be.  This is our heritage, this is important for people to remember — every nine-year old that gets to SLEEP at NIGHT on a HUGE SHIP will be a better person because of it.

And the Badger is chock full of long-distance trucks saving going though Chicago burning $5 diesel and getting the drivers their sleep requirement.

The Great Badger

Badger coming up the tiny channel — hundreds of people come out to watch every night at 7

Badger full of trucks

Badger backs into the dock on a anchor because there isn’t enough room to turn around — that ain’t easy!!

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