The safe harbors lining the western Michigan Shore provided secure moorings for Last Dance and interesting venues for the crew. Most of the harbors are lakes that are located close to Lake Michigan, connected to the big lake by a canal dug through the sand dunes. The canals were constructed when shipping was the major form of commercial and passenger transportation.
Leland is a very tiny town, about 4 blocks long and 3 blocks wide, which mainly survives on tourism. It is a quaint and historic town and provided multiple days of entertainment while on Lake Michigan. It was from here that the Last Dance crew made the visit to Sleeping Bear National Seashore.
Fishing shanties along the water have been converted into a shopping area. There are still fish houses, buying fish from the fishermen, smoking fish, and selling wholesale and to the public. So, it is still a working fish town, but is mostly a tourist FishTown.
The logo for FishTown is the profile of a local fishing boat, Janice Sue. When first seen, it appears to be a profile of an odd wooden shoe. Only until you see the boat, does it make sense. Great Lake fishing boats are of a quite different construction. They must withstand very high seas and are built to be completely sealed and unsinkable.
|Beautiful Beach Full of Treasures|
|Lynda & Bob Looping on Erika Lin|
The White Lake lighthouse still stands watch at the canal entrance to White Lake and is operated as a museum. One of its claims to fame is that it was staffed with the first female lighthouse keeper. White Lake is a five mile long lake with two small towns, Whitehall and Montague, located at the far end. The towns are divided by a small creek. There is a 31 mile long bicycle trail connecting areas along the coast.
|Bicycle Trail through park in Whitehall|
|World's Largest Weather Vane in Montague|
|History is Fun, Hot Fudge Sundae in Oldest Michigan Soda Fountain|
The canals that have been constructed from Lake Michigan to the interior lakes to create safe harbors were constructed over 100 years ago to support commercial traffic. Grand Haven celebrates the freight industry that built it as a town. And, while there is little commercial freight still shipped through Grand Haven, there is a large freighter that loads gravel and sand. The freighter is so long that it cannot turn around in the channel, so it must back out the long channel to reach Lake Michigan.
The Grand Haven Museum of Transportation had a model of the town when cargo was transferred from ships to trains. The area filled with trains is now park and marinas. The buildings in the background, a piano factory at the time, still stand and house shops and condominiums.
Grand Haven's downtown streets have been rebuilt creating a pedestrian-friendly environment and have heat installed under the streets and sidewalks to melt snow in the winter. The downtown is alive with occupied storefronts and interesting retail and restaurant establishments.
An interesting and entertaining town to be stuck in while awaiting Lake Michigan to calm down enough to permit travel. There was a farmers' market and a variety of restaurants. The Grand Isle Marina had resort prices, but was a nice, protected place to be. With the tiny Muskegon airport not far away, a rental car location created the opportunity for oldest daughter, Amanda, to join the crew cruising down Lake Michigan.
Holland is located on a large lake with a short canal leading to Lake Michigan. It was a good stop for the Last Dance crew because of industrial supply houses with needed parts and a variety of marinas to choose from. Some cruisers are discouraged from stopping at Holland since the marinas are not close to town. But, a great system of bike paths makes transportation by pedaling easy. And, at the Anchorage Yacht Club, where Last Dance was moored, three people offered the loan of their car. Chuck and Shirley Cooper, DeFever Cruisers members, where the first to offer and their car made the stop more productive.
Chuck and Shirley have their 53' DeFever POC on the market. The Last Dance crew seriously considered this larger boat to add a bit more comfort and space. A Grand Craft now sits behind Chuck and Shirley's house, providing quick cruising for short trips. The Grand Craft boats are beautiful wooden boats built in Holland by Anchor Marine, which was owned by the Coopers and is now operated by one of their sons.
The downtown area of Holland is inviting, welcoming, attractive. Storefronts are full. Amanda found a great pair of running shoes which proved to be a big improvement, tested running the many miles of bike trails in town. Just behind downtown, the Hope College Campus adds beauty, architectural interest, and lively college students.
Waves breaking along the jetty leading to St. Joseph. And, this was a nice day on the Lake. The state marina at St. Joseph had a feature that excited the crews of the Looper boats who stayed here multiple days awaiting calm weather to cross the lake to Chicago -- free washer and dryer. Oh, the things that one learns to appreciate on a long-distance cruise.