Way­point

Throt­tle back and find an easy pace in this laid-back lo­cale with an old-fash­ioned, all-Amer­i­can am­bi­ence.

Power & Motor Yacht - - IN THIS ISSUE -

Lit­tle Tra­verse Bay, Michi­gan, is stud­ded with charm­ing towns. So why are some boaters ap­pre­hen­sive about vis­it­ing?

Lake Michi­gan is one of those places that can make even sea­soned skip­pers feel a wee bit un­easy. “Those who haven’t done any boat­ing here have pre­con­ceived no­tions about tur­bu­lent wa­ter and ter­rific storms, but once they try it, they’re pleas­antly sur­prised,” says Jim Fa­vors. That’s be­cause a nice day on Lake Michi­gan is re­ally as nice as it gets.

Jim and his wife, Lisa, live in Michi­gan and know the wa­ters of this in­land sea well. They’ve also done the Great Loop twice aboard their Ranger Tug, and dur­ing their trav­els spent count­less hours in cock­pits with new friends, en­cour­ag­ing them to make the time to ex­plore the big lake. “Many Loop­ers spend much of the sum­mer in Canada and then do a fast run down Lake Michi­gan on their way to Chicago. But there’s a lot to see here, par­tic­u­larly in the north­east cor­ner.”

That cor­ner—which is where the pinky fin­ger might be in the oven mitt that is the state of Michi­gan—is home to Lit­tle Tra­verse Bay, the kind of place that can make even the most am­bi­tious cruiser want to just stop mov­ing for a mo­ment, so as to stand at the edge of a dock and in­hale the sweet­wa­ter air.

There’s some­thing restora­tive in the at­mos­phere. The pro­tected an­chor­ages, quiet beaches, preppy towns, tall bluffs, smil­ing pedes­tri­ans and sum­mer cot­tages with wel­com­ing porches can re­vive a visi­tor’s sense of in­ner calm in a way a meditation app never could. Those things have been lulling boaters for years.

Among the most ar­dent fans of Lit­tle Tra­verse Bay are the Mid­west­ern­ers who keep their boats here in the sum­mer to take ad­van­tage of the light crowds, even in the pret­ti­est places. Many of th­ese peo­ple spent their childhood sum­mers fish­ing, swim­ming and cruis­ing in the area and look back on that time with fond­ness. So, they make the pil­grim­age year af­ter year, care­ful to main­tain fam­ily tra­di­tions that stretch back for gen­er­a­tions.

Lit­tle Tra­verse Bay isn’t es­pe­cially large, but there are many places to ex­plore. “The tri­fecta is Har­bor Springs, Pe­toskey and Charlevoix,” says Fa­vors. “They’re small towns with an old-fash­ioned, all-Amer­i­can am­bi­ence, yet they’re modern at the same time. Mari­nas, for in­stance, are all up to date. And just as im­por­tant, the lo­cals know how to wel­come boaters.”

Har­bor Springs is of­ten the first stop for those head­ing east into the bay from Lake Michi­gan. They’ll swing hard to port

once past the his­toric Lit­tle Tra­verse Light and point the bow to­ward the 100-foot­deep har­bor. Pris­tine homes and white church steeples face the wa­ter­front, and within walk­ing dis­tance from mari­nas are gal­leries, sweet shops and wide side­walks for lazy strolls. The port is laid-back and re­fined, the tone es­tab­lished in the 1930s when the Fords and Wrigleys built sum­mer homes here in the New­port of the Mid­west.

Across the bay in Pe­toskey, cruis­ers en­ter Ernest Hem­ing­way coun­try. His par­ents had a house nearby, and the hem­lock forests and streams he ob­served as a kid in­formed his writ­ing later on—Hem­ing­way used Pe­toskey as a set­ting for some of the Nick Adams sto­ries. That says some­thing about the tenor of the town. If Hem­ing­way wrote about a lo­ca­tion, it was typ­i­cally one of the more in­ter­est­ing places of the mo­ment. To­day, a big mu­nic­i­pal ma­rina is within walk­ing dis­tance of a nice fam­i­lyfriendly wa­ter­front park and shop­ping in the Gaslight Dis­trict. Just a few miles down the coast and within the city lim­its of Pe­toskey is Bay Har­bor. It’s more lux­ury res­i­den- tial com­mu­nity than cruis­ing out­post, but some crews will make the time to pull into the world-class ma­rina and head ashore to check out the im­pres­sive eques­trian cen­ter, golf course, shop­ping and din­ing.

And then there’s Charlevoix, ac­cessed through a chan­nel that leads from Lake Michi­gan through the cen­ter of town and onto lovely Round Lake. There, Adiron­dack chairs are pulled up along the shores of a com­mu­nity that bears a re­sem­blance to the fam­ily re­treat in the movie Dirty Danc­ing. The town of Charlevoix is a busy place with an ac­tive wa­ter­front that seems to host an out­door con­cert or fes­ti­val ev­ery week­end. Vis­i­tors tie up and look for din­ner at the Weath­er­vane Restau­rant on the canal, where they watch the bridge raise for boat traf­fic and see chil­dren with fish­ing poles run­ning to­ward the piers that face Lake Michi­gan. Yes, con­di­tions on the lake can get feisty, and fickle weather pat­terns do oc­cur, but that’s not rea­son enough to avoid cruis­ing here. Says Fa­vors, “Wait for the proper day and time to travel, and re­spect the wa­ter. The ex­pe­ri­ence is worth it.”

why Go? This quiet cor­ner of Lake Michi­gan sur­prises first-time vis­i­tors who don’t an­tic­i­pate wa­ter tinted a pretty shade of Caribbean­like aqua­ma­rine.

1. The canal lead­ing from Charlevoix to Lake Michi­gan. 2. A gallery stroll in Pe­toskey. 3. Fun on tap in Charlevoix. 4. A laid-back af­ter­noon in Har­bor Springs. 5. An Arthur Hills-de­signed golf course hugs the coast in Bay Har­bor. 5

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