Friday, June 20, 2008

Two Nights in Grand Haven, Michigan

After our little "experience" in Port Sheldon, we were happy to see the lighthouse leading into Grand Haven, where we took a slip for two nights (6/15 and 6/16) at the Grand Haven Municipal Marina. The marina is located in a great spot, convenient to downtown and right across from the Dancing Water Fountain, which provides a show every evening in the summer.

The only drawback to the marina is that it's not very well protected. Between boat wakes, river current and surge from Lake Michigan, you do a lot of bouncing around in the slip. So if ever visiting there, be prepared to use lots of lines and fenders to keep you off the dock. But after Port Sheldon, it felt as secure as anywhere!

The dancing water show is pretty interesting. It's somewhat disconcerting though, as there's a sound component (mostly music) where at the beginning of the show the fountain talks to you, referring to itself as "I". Being addressed by a talking fountain took a little getting used to! We tried to take some photos, but they admittedly look more like a forest fire than a dancing water fountain.

The marina is situated right along the river walk, which is lined with quaint little shops on Chinook Pier and eateries, including multiple ice cream stands. The river walk leads all the way down to Grand Haven State Park that is right at the beach. Also along the river walk is a collection of all the Grand Haven fishing charters. The Tri-Cities Historical Museum is also along the river walk and right by the Municipal Marina. We didn't explore the inside of the museum but they have a number of old rail cars, cabooses, and a locomotive on the grounds around the museum (which is on the site of the former train depot.)

We seem to be developing a theme with our stopover locations. Just like at Port Sheldon, we found ourselves spending the night right across from a power plant. Maybe being from Chicago we're just used to the urban marinas, but the power plants don't seem to be noisy and don't detract whatsoever.

In fact, this one gave us quite an interesting experience. A coal carrying lake freighter came down the river and unloaded its coal at the power plant. Here's a couple of photos of it. The conveyor belt on the freighter swings right around and unloads from the ship. The boat arrived in the early afternoon, immediately began unloading, and was still doing so when we went to bed. We don't know when it finished, because it was gone in the morning.

Grand Haven was quite the lake freighter town. After spending all of our trip last summer hoping to get a decent view of one of the "big ships", on Monday we got a close-up view of three of them (counting the coal ship) coming up the river past Meridian. One of them came as the coal ship was unloading and had to work her way past.

The other one (the Wilfred Sykes) actually backed up the river. Here you see her as she is about to pass by Meridian.

Grand Haven is a different type of town. It doesn't feel touristy, but does have a nice shopping stretch right by the marina. Fortino's is a nice little food store. While not a full-service grocery store, it has dairy, coffee, wines and liquors, candy, and breads. and has the basics but is not a full service grocery. It also has two coffee shops, some souvenir stores, clothing shops, home furnishings and accessories shops, and a marine tech store. We're not sure if it is because it is early in the season and, like us, everyone was hibernating all winter, but the store people are very friendly and talkative. Sometimes it's hard to leave the store! ;)

And no post about Grand Haven would be complete without a mention of the US Coast Guard. Grand Haven is "Coast Guard City, USA", holding a big festival every August. It's hard to leave Grand Haven without a "thank you" to those in the Coast Guard who are "Always Ready". I know we feel safer knowing they are a quick radio call away.

Thank you men and women of the USCG!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great post on Grand Haven and a mention of Fortino's! Hope you are having a great trip.