Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Specialty Ships in West Michigan

Here in West Michigan, it seems like there are boats everywhere during the summer! Kayaks, speedboats, pontoons, sailboats, and the list goes on and on. West Michigan is also home to some unique boats, ones which serve a special purpose, harbor some great history, or offer a new way to get out and enjoy a famous West Michigan sunset. Get ready to find your sea legs as we climb aboard the great specialty ships of West Michigan!

Set sail for history when you climb aboard the Friends Good Will, based out of the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven, MI. This is a working replica of a merchant square topsail sloop, which was captured by the British and used to fight the War of 1812. She was recaptured by the United States in September of 1813, and burned by the British that December. Friends Good Will now takes to the waters May through September, and offers educational sails, passenger outings, dockside boardings, charters, weddings, and conferences. Head north to Traverse City to experience another tall ship, the Manitou, part of the Traverse Tall Ship Co. Manitou is a replica of an 1800s “coasting” cargo schooner, specifically designed for passenger service. Capable of carrying 59 passengers with a length of 144 feet, she travels with a comfortable, relaxing motion, perfect for a day or evening cruise. Sign up for a specialty cruise (Wine Tasting, Musical Entertainment, Guided History Tour), or book the “Floating Bed & Breakfast” package to sleep aboard the ship and wake up to a full breakfast cooked right on the ship’s wood burning stove.

Holland Princess
 One of the great things about being a state with so much water is that here in Michigan, you can travel by boat to visit some great destinations! And for some of these places, by boat is the only way to get there. If you’re planning a trip to Beaver Island, situated in Lake Michigan just off shore from Charlevoix, your transit options are by water or by air. The Beaver Island Boat Company runs a ferry service that will transport you and your vehicle over to the island, whether you’re visiting for a day trip or an extended stay. Their ferries make around 750 trips to and from the island each year, bringing over 40,000 visitors to the shores of Beaver Island. If you head further north and hop aboard a Shepler’s Ferry headed to Mackinac Island, you won’t have the option of bringing your vehicle along. With no cars allowed on Mackinac Island, plan to travel by foot, bicycle, or horse-drawn trolley when you arrive. Shepler’s will take you to the island from either Mackinaw City or St. Ignace, and also offers cruises right under the Mackinac Bridge. There’s even the option of renting an entire ferry for a special event or group function, with the stunning backdrop of the bridge, the island, and the lake. If you’re looking to get out of Michigan for a vacation, there’s even a boat for that. The Lake Express High Speed Ferry travels between Muskegon, MI and Milwaukee, WI, crossing the lake in just two and a half hours. With three trips each day during the summer season and your choice of classic or premier cabin seating, you’ll enjoy a relaxing cruise across the lake. The Lake Express has space to transport 46 vehicles and 12 motorcycles on each trip, or has car rental counters at both ends of the passage if you would prefer to simply rent a car for the duration of your trip.

Star of Saugatuck
Maybe you’re not looking to travel anywhere by boat, but would simply prefer to take a relaxing afternoon or sunset cruise around one of the many majestic waterways of Lake Michigan. Set sail from Muskegon, MI, on the Port City Princess, who docks in Lake Muskegon, but carries her passengers out onto Lake Michigan as well. Carrying up to 150 passengers, her season begins each year during Memorial Day Weekend with the Blessing of the Boats. Head south to Holland, MI, to climb aboard the Holland Princess, a 65’ Victorian style paddlewheel river boat. She’ll carry you from Lake Macatawa into Lake Michigan, passing the famous “Big Red” lighthouse of Holland along the way. Lunch cruises and dinner cruises are available, with private decks available for large parties. Head further south along the coast yet to reach Saugatuck, MI, home to Star of Saugatuck Boat Cruises. This hour and a half trip will take you down the Kalamazoo River and into Lake Michigan on an authentic stern wheel paddleboat. Enjoy the live narration to learn about local landmarks and points of interest, as well as some of the local maritime history.

Traverse Tall Ship Co.
Now that you’re familiar with some of the unique ways to take to the water in West Michigan, plan a trip this summer to try some of them out! Settle in for a romantic sunset dinner cruise, or prepare for the high seas on a historic tall ship. No matter which vessel you choose to climb aboard this summer, bring your sense of adventure and prepare to experience West Michigan in a whole new way.

1 comment:

Jill C. said...

Last I looked, Ludington is in West Michigan too and that's home to the SS Badger. She's a unique ship now but there used to be others like her. She's slower than the newer ferry that goes from Muskegon to Milwaukee, but the ride is easier on the tummy and so's the fare on the pocketbook! Read about the Badger's history and see why she should also be included with your list of specialty ships in West Michigan.