Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

Home · Articles · News · Features · Great Lakes Boating is Back
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Great Lakes Boating is Back

Becky Kalajian - March 24th, 2014  

Yacht owners to the humblest rowboaters are anticipating summer 2014 to be the perfect storm for Great Lakes boating.

From backyard ponds to Michigan’s inland’s seas, this winter’s barrage of ice and non-lake effect snow are pumping water levels up a foot or more.

Improved finances and boating technology are likewise pushing many wanna-be boat owners off the fence while prompting seasoned sailors to upgrade.

Boaters and those in the industry say the timing couldn’t be better.


Hi Stover, a yacht broker for Walstrom Marine in Harbor Springs, said sales of 20-ft. to 80-ft. boats are “trending up.”

“I think the typical boat buyer might be in a stronger position financially, whether they’re looking for new or used,” said Stover, who sells new and used boats worldwide. “Others have been sitting on the sidelines for a few years; now it’s time to participate.”

Improved technology is prompting nervous boaters to buy, Stover said. Joysticks have replaced steering wheels, making docking a boat “child’s play,” he said.

“We made a video of an eight-year-old docking a 40-ft. boat,” he said. “Someone new to boating can now drive safely because of this technology.”

Other technological improvements include quieter, more fuel-efficient engines and GPS that works much like a smartphone, using a touchpad with familiar graphics, Stover said.

“It allows a person to become literate much, much faster,” he said. “It’s crazy how easy it is.”

For those who love power, boats 25 feet and longer are being manufactured with four-stroke outboards, increasing speed and decreasing sound output.

“It tends to get the buyer from the 20-ft. |boat into the 25-ft. range,” Stover said. “We also get people upgrading from 20 feet to the mid-30s.”


Yacht dealers, dock brokers, and boat owners all say the rising lake levels will be a boon for this season.

Ron Olson, chief of parks and recreation for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, says that lake levels are the “proverbial question” outdoor lovers have in mind.

“We talk to the Army Corps of Engineers all of the time and get weekly updates, especially after what we went through last year,” said Olson, referring to record low water levels. “The projection for boaters looks good and water levels could be even greater depending on how much spring rain we get.”

Olson said that June lake levels will measure more than six inches higher for Superior; Michigan and Huron are expected to measure more than seven inches higher; Erie should be up more than four inches, and Lake St. Clair should rise about two inches.

Despite the rising water levels, a state $20.9 million emergency dredging program is still underway. Since last year, 56 public marinas were dredged or are in process, with Frankfort, Harbor Springs, Traverse City and Manistee on the list for this spring, Olson said.

“Grand Traverse Bay is still in the works because of some soil/sediment issues, but otherwise we are on schedule,” he said. “This is all critical dredging to allow boaters to get in and out of marinas safely.”


No matter what the water level is, docks sell.  High water, though, would be “a bonus,” said Wally Drabek, partner at the family owned Twin Bay Docks in Traverse City.

“It all goes hand in hand,” said Drabek, whose product is made specifically for the Great Lakes. “What’s good for the marine industry is good for us.”

Boat owners along East Bay’s shoreline in Traverse City say that getting to their docks and hoists has been “a nightmare,” even with added dock sections.

“We’d have to schlep all of our gear 50 to 75 yards off my parents’ beach and then, once we got going, bottom out depending on the waves,” said Kim Beattie, whose family of six enjoys weekly excursions to local sand bars where the kids play. “We’ve gone through at least seven propellers in the past few years, just hitting rocks near my parents’ house.”

Although the two families had more dock sections installed, Beattie said it was “prohibitively expensive” to install sections all the way to the beach.

“We’re so excited the water is up; it will be so great to not hit stuff in the bay or logs in Skegemog and Torch [lakes],” she said. “If it gets high enough where we can get the dock close to the beach, that would be lovely.”


Chris Flynn said he can’t even get into the Petoskey marina’s snowbound parking lot, but come summer, he thinks the marina lot will be jammed for other reasons.

“We should be in good shape this year,” said Flynn, the 144-slip marina’s supervisor. “For a while there, it got close to disaster level.”

Flynn said that the waitlist for a seasonal boat slip is at 112 people, which translates into a multi-year wait. The slip fees range in price from $2,430 to $5,520 a season; transient slips cost $39 per night.

“When you’re paying $400,000 for a boat, you’d think it would be more,” said Flynn, who services a mix of boats ranging from small cruisers to 150-ft. yachts, with most in the 45-ft. range.

Just south of Petoskey, the privately funded Bay Harbor Lake Marina is gearing up for an event-heavy season.

In June, the marina will host a Father’s Day boat show; the next weekend, it will host the largest vintage boat and car show in the country. In mid-July the property is celebrating its 20th anniversary as well as putting on an arts event and its annual yard sale.

All this combined with a 10 percent increase in seasonal slip rentals means “there’s a lot going on,” said Joel Shoemaker, dock master for Bay Harbor Lake Marina.

“There definitely is a resurgence of people either purchasing boats or calling for slip rentals,” he said. “It’s an exciting time.”


Andrew MacDonald says that he has high hopes for this year’s Traverse City Boat & Outdoor Show in April.

“I expect a record year for attendance and a great year for boats sold,” said MacDonald, whose show is in its eighth year. “I’m not sure if it’s the economy or it’s the ‘life’s too short’ mentality.”

A low point for MacDonald was 2008 and 2009, when attendance – and the visitors’ vibe – dropped significantly.

“People are much more interested in pulling the trigger,” he said.

Twelve dealers plus other vendors will be at the show, with pontoons representing 50 percent of the boats on display.

“Pontoons are red hot; you can do so much on them,” said MacDonald, whose visitors come mainly from northern Michigan, Detroit, and Grand Rapids. “Some have bars, some have bathrooms. They’re versatile and with so many inland lakes in Michigan, you can’t go wrong.”

Much of the boat show’s success depends on the weather, however.

“The weather is critical,” he said. “We always pray for clouds, a little rain, and 50 degrees. Then they’ll flock to your show.”


Boat owners filling up their tanks don’t have a choice when it comes to price. Special marine-grade fuel hovered about $4.90 a gallon last year; marina workers say they hesitate to speculate about prices this year but have seen them shoot above $5 a gallon in the past.

For boaters whose vessels burn gallons to the mile as they cruise from Chicago to ports on Michigan’s west shoreline, it’s a small price to pay.

“Some of the bigger boats use well over 1,200 gallons; we take about an hour to fill a boat of this size,” said Petoskey’s Flynn. “And no matter what the manufacturers say, these boats are not fuel-efficient.”

Traditionally a money pit, boat ownership means sinking big money into dockage, winter storage, repairs, and other non-fuel related costs, Flynn said.

“It makes no sense financially,” he said.

“The only thing I would ever consider buying for my family is a tugboat or a trawler. At least those things are fuel efficient.”

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