Sea Rays trek to Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sea Rays trek to Sleeping Bear Dunes

By Tim Healey

I had recently bought a used 2005 Sea Ray 200 Sundeck, a near carbon copy of my buddy Pat Flynn’s boat, except mine was red and his, blue. Earlier in the summer, we’d made a few short trips to Long Tail Point in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and my Sea Ray had handled the chop when the wind picked up in the bay.

Although both native Michiganders, my wife, Amy, and I have lived in Green Bay for 20-plus years. Pat and his wife, Mary, are both born and bred cheeseheads. Mary had seen the “Pure Michigan” TV commercials featuring Charlevoix, Sleeping Bear Dunes and other picturesque Michigan scenes. When I heard that she put a bug in Pat’s ear about visiting, I said we should consider a trip with the two boats.

I’m a die-hard sailor with some Great Lakes voyages under my belt, and Pat is a longtime power boater. I grew up near Lake Superior where you learn quickly that the lake is the boss. Pat had similar feelings, so we approached the subject with caution. After all, we had 20-foot open-bow sport boats.

I grew up near Lake Superior where you learn quickly that the lake is the boss.

Knowing that weather and wind were the key factors in making this trip, I downloaded Windfinder, a mobile app that allowed me to track forecast accuracy up to seven days into the future. I compared the app to local weather conditions for a few weeks, and my confidence grew.

As early August approached, we watched the weather and found a window that worked for everyone’s schedule. I called every hotel and motel in Frankfort, Michigan, only to find no rooms or slips available in the popular summer harbor town. I put my name on a waiting list at Harbor Lights Resort and hoped for the best.

On 7 Aug. we started trailering the boats up to Sturgeon Bay at 0700, which put us on the water and through the ship channel into Lake Michigan at 0830. I set the 62-mile course across the lake to Sleeping Bear Dunes and headed out. The northeast wind was light, but lake rollers left over from earlier in the week were more significant than I had expected. We slowed from 25 to 20 knots, and the rollers died down the farther east we went. Eventually the dunes came into view, a welcome sight. We pulled up to shore slowly, and jumping into the water to secure a rear anchor, I was quickly reminded how cold Great Lakes water is, even in the heat of summer.

After securing the anchors, we ate lunch and took a bunch of pictures of one of the most beautiful places on Earth. It’s hard to convey the enormity of the dunes through words or pictures. The afternoon sun hit the lake perfectly, revealing its vivid glory. We had fun picking through colorful stones to find the rare Petoskeys and soaking up the beauty.

After discussing fuel levels and distances, Pat and I headed 18 miles south to Frankfort. Along the way, I received a call from Harbor Lights saying a room and two slips had opened up. What luck!

We docked and walked around Frankfort’s sand beach and small-town storefronts, ending up at Dinghy’s for excellent drinks and dinner. While strolling on the pier later that night, Amy and Mary both caught a glimpse of a shooting star.

The trip back was calm and comfortable, with both boats purring along at 3100 rpm and making good time.

The next day we grabbed some coffee and gassed up at the municipal fuel dock. The trip back was calm and comfortable, with both boats purring along at 3100 rpm and making good time. We passed one large cruiser coming from Wisconsin and saw a research vessel in the far distance; otherwise, it was shallow swell surfing all the way.

When we arrived back in Sturgeon Bay around noon, Pat got a call from fellow boater and friend Dave Hedsand who asked if we wanted to join him and his friends at Riley’s Bay. We headed around Sherwood Point Lighthouse and anchored in the calm, warm bay south of Snake Island. Dozens of boats were anchored already, getting an early start on the weekend. We enjoyed sharing our experience and pictures with boaters who appreciated the adventure.

We headed north back to Sturgeon Bay at 1630 and loaded the boats onto the trailers. Once on shore, we talked about how much fresh air we had inhaled and how much sunshine we had soaked in over the last 48 hours. We would all sleep soundly that night.


A lifelong boater from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Tim Healey enjoys power cruising, sailing, fishing, kayaking, boat building and rebuilding. He lives with his wife, Amy, and two daughters, Katie and Morgan, in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Tim is a member of Green Bay Sail & Power Squadron/10.

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