Outside magazine, August 1996
In Great Lakes maritime lore, passage on a Lake Michigan steamer or yacht demanded a healthy tolerance for mischance--the lake chalked up seven of the worst 13 shipwrecks on the inland seas in the late nineteenth century. Today in placid Grand Traverse Bay, all you need is a yen for smooth, prevailing-wind cruising and maybe a few gentle undulations to rock your berth aboard the Tall Ship Malabar.
An overnight stay on the 105-foot tall ship starts with a sunset sail--a front-row seat for watching the crew trim sheets and shimmy up into the rigging of the two-masted, gaff-rigged, topsail schooner--followed by a quiet overnight mooring at the end of a private pier. Swimming is prohibited under sail, but plan to dive into the crystal-clear water once you're docked. On-board entertainment includes the Beach Bards drama troupe (Tuesdays) and the Song of the Lakes chantey musicians (Wednesdays), and if you're lucky the captain will spin a few shipwreck yarns (ask for the Legend of the Three Sisters).
The eight staterooms recall the mid-1800s in style and dimension (i.e., small but cozy), but you can also spread a sleeping bag out on deck and watch for the northern lights. If the sunrise over Old Mission Peninsula doesn't wake you, the smell of fresh coffee will; the galley-prepared breakfast of eggs, sausage, veggies, and fruits is becoming famous. Ask the crew for local fishing charter recommendations--the muskies are said to grow to six feet, with enormous toothy jaws--or spend a day hiking at nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
The Tall Ship Malabar's floating bed-and-breakfast runs Tuesday through Saturday nights from Memorial Day through September for $95 per person or $175 per couple. Day sails are available, as are longer cruises on Malabar's sister ship, the Manitou. Call 800-968-8800 for a brochure or 616-941-2000 for details.