Trip Report - Running Middle/Northern Lake Michigan (East Side)

Stee6043

Well-Known Member
Jun 1, 2015
6,628
West Michigan
Boat Info
1997 Sundancer 400
Engines
7.4L Gassers
This past Sunday we returned from a 15 day boat trip up the eastern side of Lake Michigan, briefly hopping over to Lake Huron. It's by far the most miles I've run in a single trip at just shy of 600 total miles. Overall, it was a really great trip. The boat performed flawlessly in all manner of sea state. The dinghy got a whole lotta use. Ultimately, my kids have no idea how good they have it.

I thought I'd share some photos with you guys.

The boat ran like a champ fully fueled, 5 passengers, fully packed with booze and beer.
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After our first stop in Leland we pushed on to Mackinac Island. This was my first time under the bridge (in my own boat) and the first time I've gone into another Great Lake (on my own boat).
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It was a long run in beastly following seas to get the the island so I treated the fam to a great meal upon arrival....preceded by a strong pour for dad :)
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The marina on the island has a reputation for being rough. I concur. I'm not sure I'll go back. The admiral and I did have to work a bit most mornings on this vacation and doing so in this marina was tough. The surge starts at 730AM with the first ferry, peaks at noon, and doesn't really stop until 10PM. Every 30 minutes +/-. I've been in worse docking setups due to weather but never something this sustained. We were kinda done with it after 2 days.
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We spent one night on the wall in Northport on our way south to Elk Rapids, saw Tim Allens boat, enjoyed a decent marina with WAY too many spiders.
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Then back south to Elk Rapids where spent a little over a week hanging out, hitting Torch Lake, running to sandbars, enjoying Harbor Days, all sorts of fun.
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We hit Portage Lake on our way home, then a rather early morning run back to Grand Haven to beat some weather. Saw the sunrise as we shot south...
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With that I guess I can start winterizing the boat now :)
 
Ohh and on fuel...so I ended up just shy of 600 miles and burned 850 +/- gallons. I haven't run the final tally but I think I'll end up at .68MPG. Based on the weather I dealt with I'm quite pleased with this result.

I probably could have run her at 1.0MPG if I wanted to drive slow:). But these motors seem to have a sweet spot at 3400-3500. You can hear it....and it sounds nice.

Fully fueled this is how I ran the whole trip. Once fuel hit half tank I'd pick up another 1.5mph +/-.
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Great trip. Love seeing trip reports and pictures. Thank you very much for posting.

Is there anything you would do different for the next trip?
 
Great trip. It makes me sound like fair weather boaters but there’s little I dislike more than a bouncy marina. If we’re at anchor it’s sort of expected, but that sustained movement tied to a dock gets old really quickly. There are a few near us I avoid for that reason and we’re spoiled at our home port where it’s like a swimming pool calm
 
Great trip. Love seeing trip reports and pictures. Thank you very much for posting.

Is there anything you would do different for the next trip?

One thing I'd do differently is stay another week! Ha...this whole work thing can be a real bummer.

We felt a bit rushed trying to get home. I felt like the winds were behaving a lot like late September, not early August. That made for a semi-stressful 2/3 days getting back south to our home marina. Nothing quite like waking up at 130AM to start checking wind and wave reports every 10 minutes.

Other than wind/waves, I wouldn't change a thing. Well....actually....my kids did bring home about 80lbs of petoskey stones...I do wish I didn't transport so much aggregate on these trips :)

Ohh one thing I'd do next time - rent a pontoon boat and explore Lake Leelanau. We were super fortunate to spend an evening with some friends on that lake (in a really cool old Chris Craft). I'd love to spend a whole day putsing around on the lake someday.
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We have made that trip 45 or 50 times and never tired of it. Concerning the spiders, there is no way to avoid bringing a load of them back to your home slip. The day after we returned, I would buy an insect spray for gardens that attaches to a garden hose and wet down the entire boat including the cockpit. Also did the dock and pilings. It takes just 10 minutes. A day or two later I would do good job of washing the boat and the dock and we were spider free for weeks after that.
Also about renting a boat for a Lake Leelanau tour… we have done that as well. We were disappointed. While this is a gorgeous lake, touring it gets boring pretty quickly. You end up looking at an endless tree line after about an hour or two. The homes are concentrated in two or three areas and after that there is nothing to look at except trees. Swimming is not advised as the lake is full of the parasites that cause swimmers itch. You must shower immediately after getting out of the water to avoid infection. A three hour boat rental in plenty long enough for a tour and picnic on the boat.
We are fortunate to have some of the best cruising in the world right outside our back doors.
 
Agreed. The ferry boat wakes at Mackinac Island are annoying at best. My boat looks like it's in the middle of a spider web after I get all the lines set there. I can't understand why that can't be better controlled. I heard over the VHF a couple weeks ago when one of the Viking Cruise ships were tendering passengers to the island, that the harbor authorities had contacted them concerning their tender wakes. I thought, good grief how about a warning to Star Line and Shepler every 30 minutes? I've complained to the USCG at St. Ignace, but they do little or nothing.
 
The slips over by JL Beanery offer less exposure to the ferry boat wakes. We’ve never been particularly bothered by them. You have to remember the ferries are the only link other than flying in to get there. Hundreds, maybe thousands of people come and go daily via ferry boat. The ferries need to get in and get out of the harbor in a timely manner to keep things efficient. A bigger issue in my view is the diesel soot that settles on your boat. Ours always needed a good cleaning after being there for 2 or 3 days. It would go from white to grey from the exhausts in that time frame.
 
Also about renting a boat for a Lake Leelanau tour… we have done that as well. We were disappointed. While this is a gorgeous lake, touring it gets boring pretty quickly. You end up looking at an endless tree line after about an hour or two. The homes are concentrated in two or three areas and after that there is nothing to look at except trees. Swimming is not advised as the lake is full of the parasites that cause swimmers itch. You must shower immediately after getting out of the water to avoid infection. A three hour boat rental in plenty long enough for a tour and picnic on the boat.
We are fortunate to have some of the best cruising in the world right outside our back doors.

Don't tell my kids but my wife and I kinda wanted to stop at a brewery and a winery in the narrows (I think that's what they are called?) during this future pontoon tour :). Not just sight seeing. But I do appreciate the feedback, half day rental sounds ideal.

My daughter and I both got some swimmers itch after our second day beaching the dink in the Torch River. I've never in my life had swimmers itch, I thought I had been attacked by a thousand mosquitos. Kinda gross. The waters of Spring Lake seem disgusting compared to Torch/Leelanau (or any waters that far north) but I've never had any issues in 30+ years swimming there.

I guess add that to my list of things I'd do differently - not get swimmers itch.
 
The slips over by JL Beanery offer less exposure to the ferry boat wakes. We’ve never been particularly bothered by them. You have to remember the ferries are the only link other than flying in to get there. Hundreds, maybe thousands of people come and go daily via ferry boat. The ferries need to get in and get out of the harbor in a timely manner to keep things efficient. A bigger issue in my view is the diesel soot that settles on your boat. Ours always needed a good cleaning after being there for 2 or 3 days. It would go from white to grey from the exhausts in that time frame.
The ferries could still make their schedules by coming off plane at the breakwall. It still wouldn't eliminate the surges and wakes but would certainly ease the situation. Shepler started running every 15 minutes a few weeks ago and many times, a boat sits by the Mackinaw City gas dock while the Shepler dock clears. So an extra couple minutes in the harbor wouldn't kill their schedule. I've seen the Starline boats on plane easily halfway between the breakwall and the end of the main dock at the island. That's excessive. I did sense that when the cruise ships were moored at the main dock, it seems to knock down a lot of the wake action. I've noted your comment on diesel soot in the past. We've never had that experience at the island or in our Mackinaw City slip. Spiders, yes. Soot, not so much.
 
Don't tell my kids but my wife and I kinda wanted to stop at a brewery and a winery in the narrows (I think that's what they are called?) during this future pontoon tour :). Not just sight seeing. But I do appreciate the feedback, half day rental sounds ideal.

My daughter and I both got some swimmers itch after our second day beaching the dink in the Torch River. I've never in my life had swimmers itch, I thought I had been attacked by a thousand mosquitos. Kinda gross. The waters of Spring Lake seem disgusting compared to Torch/Leelanau (or any waters that far north) but I've never had any issues in 30+ years swimming there.

I guess add that to my list of things I'd do differently - not get swimmers itch.
I agree with your comparison of water appearance of SL vs. the lakes up north. We lived on SL for 45 years and the bacteria levels are actually pretty low on that lake. It is just a geologically old lake and that is what old lakes are like…not clear but not necessarily dirty. Swimmers itch can happen on any lake that harbors ducks and shistosomes, a parasite that lives in hosts such as mallard ducks. Lake leelanau has lots of infected ducks. So does Chrystal Lake. Most of the home owners on both lakes have outdoor showers so swimmers can take a quick shower after going in the water. This rinses off the offending parasites before they can burrow into your skin.
 
If the lake or bay has snails that you can see on the rocks or sand, chances are pretty high it will have swimmers itch. It’s a parasite that goes from snails then into the water and burrows into the skin of ducks (normally merganser ducks) then grows and then From duck poop back to the snails. Human hosts don’t support the parasite so they die just under your skin and itch like hell.

So don’t swim with the snails.
 
Sounds like a worthy trip thank you for posting. We too ran the coast this summer and spent time in Harbor Springs.
 

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