I (Gene Mackin) have been sailing Lake Michigan for over 30 years. My first boat was a 40’ wood sloop named Holiday moored in Monroe Harbor. I have sailed many different boats from a 14’ Laser to a 42’ Cheoy Lee. I have cruised across the lake many times with different adventures and challenges. I am ASA certified sailor to 105. Over the last 20 years I have shared my sailing experiences with my wife, Fran, who is also an accomplished sailor in her own right. Now, of course, I am a SailTime Member who just enjoys a good sail and we get that from SailTime!
Preparing for Our Sailing Cruise
Our story begins at the SailTime Spring Get Together of SailTime Members and prospective members. The Chicago base owners Bob and Maureen Remsing hold a pre and post season event each year. This is a great opportunity to meet other SailTime members. The event encourages member to member cooperation, a vital component to our adventure.
Let me bring David and Leesa Thompson into our story. David and Leesa have been members of SailTime since 2006. They were new to sailing when they joined SailTime. But with the guidance of the SailTime instructors using the American Sailing Association courses, their skills and knowledge are impressive. Education is wonderful, but the ability to log on-water experience is the key element that SailTime offers. At the Spring Get Together the four of us discussed doing a Lake Michigan Crossing together by combining our boat time. David, Leesa and Fran had never participated in a 15 hour lake crossing but were up for the adventure. One of the great advantages of SailTime is the member to member cooperation and ability to combine our sail dates together; we easily booked a full 5 days for our sailing adventure.
We decided to go on our cruise July 23rd to 28th. We planned the trip by phone call, e-mail and a lunch meeting the week before. Our provisioning was a joint effort, each couple bring part of our food and drink supply. We decide we would sail from North Point Marina in Winthrop Harbor, IL across to South Haven, MI; a trip of about 75 miles. I was in charge of acquiring a slip in South Haven.
In preparation for our trip I called Ryan Remsing, the fleet manager, to inform him that we would be taking our boat Easc (Gaelic for fish) on a five day cruise across Lake Michigan. Ryan said that he would prepare Easc for the journey.
Thursday night the four of us met at the boat. We had Easc ready in short order, enjoyed a light dinner aboard and motored out of the marina headed for Saugatuck. The wind was from the west at about 4 knots the lake was almost flat. We set our course, watched a beautiful sunset and motored into the night. It was was calm and clear, and since our venture was right at the time of a new moon, the absence of moonlight revealed a wonderful star filled sky. We agreed to take two hour watch shifts as couples. The winds picked up to 8 knots by midnight. The night was uneventful although the company of a few freighters did add some interest to the night. We arrived at the mouth of the river at Saugatuck at around 8 a.m. We worked our way up the river to the Tower Marina. The marina was opposite the town of Saugatuck and they greeted us at the dock – always nice to have help docking.
Leesa and Dave documented our trip in her ship’s log; taking down our exact location (our ASA105 navigation class instructor would have been pleased).
We spent Friday and Saturday in Saugatuck, strolling about the shops and watching the boat parade on Saturday night. When we made our plans we didn’t know it was their Venetian Festival which included an art fair, lighted boat parade and fireworks. Isn’t it great when a plan comes together!
Sunday we sailed up to Macatawa Bay, about an 8 mile trip. The wind was from the west northwest at around 15 to 18 knots. The waves were 5’ to 6’ high. The direction of the wind was perfect for putting up the sails before leaving the channel. It was an exhilarating, fun ride. Dave perfected his heavy air/high wave skills as we navigated our way up the coast.
We entered the channel to Macatawa Bay with our sails up – the wind direction could not have been more perfect. Once we arrived in Macatawa Bay the seas were only 1’ to 2’ in the bay. We then motored the entire length of the bay and enjoyed the scenery. We docked at the Marina for the night, enjoying an excellent restaurant and view of the bay. Monday morning we started back to the Wisconsin side of the lake. Winds were blowing out of the south, southwest, at about 8 to 15 knots. Sailing was at its best. We arrived at Racine around 6:30 P.M. Went to dinner and retired for the night.
Our sail back to our home port was slow with winds from 3 to 8 knots; more on the 3 knot side. When we arrived in Winthrop Harbor we were greeted by SailTime staff member Sean. He was there to clean, refuel, pump out and prepare Easc for the next member’s sail that same evening. Over a glass of wine we reflected on our trip. The end of a perfect crossing of Lake Michigan; the SailTime way
Story by Gene Mackn with contributions from Dave & Leesa Thompson and Fran Mackin