Tuesday, August 7, 2007

South Haven, Michigan

One reason we are doing this blog is to provide information about harbors around Lake Michigan for neophyte boaters such as ourselves. When we first started talking about doing this trip, we went straight to the internet. Michigan and Wisconsin both have official sites that provide great technical information. But it was difficult – neigh impossible – to find much about the boater’s experience. We hope some of the information that we share will be useful to boaters or visitors to the areas that we visit.

In South Haven, we stayed at the South Haven Municipal Marina (www.south-haven.com - in the Parks and Recreation section). There are actually four Marinas along the Black River that make up the Municipal Marina:

· Northside Marina (97 slips, no reservations, no minimum stay, showers, restrooms, picnic, near downtown);
· Museum Marina (30 slips, no reservations, no minimum stay, showers, restrooms, picnic, near downtown, located right in front of the Maritime Museum);
· Black River Park Marina (60 slips, no reservations, showers, restrooms, picnic, boat launch ramps/$7 fee, car and trailer parking).

We stayed at the fourth marina: The Southside Marina. It is on the Black River just past the channel entrance and has 40 slips. They only take reservations for three nights or more. So, if you are staying for less than 3 nights, you have to call (269-637-3171) as you enter the channel. Of course, you can call ahead (same number) to see about availability. If you need help docking, they will provide assistance. They also tell you what side you will be tying up on without being asked. The Harbor Master staff that we met at the Southside Marina are pleasant, professional and helpful. The service areas (showers, restrooms, laundry facilities, grounds, common room, are clean and well-maintained. The docks are high enough that you can just step onto them from a high-deck boat like ours. (That’s much easier and safer for the two of us than a floating dock.) The slips also seemed very wide. Of course, we’re comparing them to our slip in Chicago, which may be a bit on the narrow side. In fact, after we pulled in to our slip in Southside, the boat next to us was readying to pull out. One of the comments we overheard them say to each other was “Don’t worry about that side so much, this isn’t Chicago, the slips are plenty wide here.”

Other information about the municipal marinas: The slips range from 30 feet to 60 feet. Electric service is 30 amp. Pump-out costs $5. Two fuel docks in the area.

We had the need to visit a marine store. All Seasons Marine, Inc. is located within walking distance of the Southside Marina. (It’s very close to the Northside and Museum Marinas.) As any of the Chicago boaters know, the ability to walk from your boat to a marine store is a luxury. They didn’t have what we went to get – transmission fluid – but offered to have their supplier bring some to the store. When we asked how long that would take – expecting that it would take a few days – she said, “Probably about 15 minutes.” Needless to say, we were pleasantly surprised.

All Seasons Marine
234 Black River Street, PO Box 431
South Haven, MI 49090

South Haven itself is a great little walking town. It’s got the artsy shops, waterfront restaurants, souvenir places, kid’s toy shops, the Christmas shop (Tuck’s Christmas Shop), the gourmet food shop (Ambrosia), a good used book store, a pretty good small-town hardware store and an earth-friendly organic clothing shop (Blue-Eyed Girl) as well. There are at least two ice cream shops, a chocolatier, a wine shop, and a bakery. They also have a day spa and a salon (although Bernie wasn’t able to get a manicure at either – they were booked up), and a barber shop. Phoenix Street and Central Street seem to be the downtown center with the shop area mentioned above radiating from that intersection. Scattered throughout the marina and downtown area are signs that discuss the area’s maritime history. One of the signs mentioned a Chicago link: For several years, the Eastland ferried passengers between Chicago and South Haven. There are some really great photographs of South Haven and the Black River, taken from 1860s through 1904, hanging in the Southside Marina Harbormaster office. One is the Eastland and another large passenger ferry docked along the Black River.

South Haven also is home to the Michigan Maritime Museum and that’s definitely worth a visit.

South Haven is also the “Haven” part of the Kal-Haven Bicycle Rail Trail. This trail runs from South Haven to Kalamazoo. We plan to ride that tomorrow.

And for you fruit lovers out there . . . the Red Haven peach was named for South Haven.

We'll be staying in South Haven tomorrow as well, then it's off to the next port.


Alicia said...

I'm afraid to ask, but will anyway:
what's the pump out for?

Great Lakes Cruising said...

The pump out, although extremely important, is not something that is discussed in polite company.