Day 128, September 2, 2012 (South Haven, MI): This is our last stop, barring unforeseen weather events, in Michigan. All-in-all the western shore of Michigan holds a variety of adventures that easily rival our cruise through the North Channel. Although Lake Michigan can whip up on the unwary in a heartbeat, the Michigan DNR gets high praise. Every 20 miles or so along the western shore there is a DNR-run harbor. Most are designated “harbors of refuge.” When one enters to get out of the weather, the harbor staff will find a place to shelter you. Above we are leaving the calm Saugatuck Harbor in the Kalamazoo River.

The other day illustrated the whole refuge notion. We left Saugatuck (above) on a beautiful morning with nothing but light winds out of the south and one- to two-foot chop on the bow predicted. A half hour into our 20-mile ride down to South Haven, there comes a weather warning from Karma out to lakeward on our beam. “Gale warnings are posted. Have you heard the weather advisory?” We hadn’t and our VHF flips over to the weather channels automatically when NOAA broadcasts weather advisories. “Thanks,” we say, “we will make haste to South Haven.” Karma turned back to Suagatuck. Within a half hour we were plowing into four- to six- on the nose and winds in the high 20s gusting. And then we get the advisory for small craft warnings. Witness the spray over my right shoulder, above, as we rearrange the furniture below decks!

We made South Haven unscathed. South Haven’s jetties are open to the west and of equal length. What that means to me is that unless the wind is from northeast to southeast, expect bad echoes of lake swell rolling right into the harbor. The sucker play in South Haven is to go for the south harbor because it is in the middle of town. Because of the DNR reservation system we were put on the north side of the  harbor, a longer walk into town. A lucky choice made for us!. With the swells rolling into the harbor that has a natural dogleg to the left, boats at the southside docks were bobbing around while the wind blew for 48 hours. We were quite comfy in the bight on the north side.

We get treated to a clear night of the August blue moon over South Haven, the second full moon of August (left).

South Haven is a little more populous than many of the other places we chose to sojourn. We planned four days here to escape the Labor Day madness. The town is jammed up for the holiday. We plan to head directly to Chicago at dawn tomorrow while folks are still hungover. It is 66 miles  that we will do at flank speed to Montrose Harbor. The forecast is favorable although we suffered the after effects of Isaac with downpours, yesterday.

A word to Loopers: fuel up in Michigan. Plan on $5.50 per gallon diesel in Chicago. It doesn’t get better until you get away from the city. Also, the Chicago small boat harbor system is a non-competing monopoly. Expect exorbitant rates for harborage in any of the Westrec facilities and that’s just about all there is.

Above is the bridge walk into South Haven from the north harbor. At the left is one of the little streets of shops in town.

Provisioning in South Haven is just okay. The supermarket, not so super, doesn’t have a large variety. It is at the top of the hill and equidistant from both sides of the harbor. The short walk back with groceries is all downhill and the liquor store is on the way.