By Jim Favors

The time finally came for us to trailer Kismet from Florida to the Great Lakes and our hometown of Traverse City. With the onset of spring and melting winter snow and ice, it was time to head home. Our road trip took us through six states, from the flatness of Florida and southern Georgia to the foothills of the Great Smokey Mountains, in Northern Georgia and Tennessee. Passing through Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky, we encountered the farmlands of Ohio on our way home to Northern Michigan. With approximately 1,800 miles behind us, almost the entire trip was made on I-75, as we traveled from the 24th parallel in Key West to just shy of the 45th parallel in Northern Michigan.

Making our driveway wider for our Ranger Tug was easily done in one day with the proper equipment.

Our big change in latitude meant a few things to us as boaters. The summer season was about to kick off. Instead of having Kismet in the water 100% of the time, as we did in Florida for over three months, we would now be trailering it to various bodies of water as we reintroduce ourselves to the Great Lakes and surrounding cruising grounds. Our plan was to store our Ranger Tug on its trailer in our driveway when not boating, therefore saving dockage fees. We figured this was one of the benefits of owning a trailerable boat, especially if, as in our case, we planned on cruising areas in and outside of our home cruising grounds. It just didn’t seem to make good financial sense for us to pay a seasonal dockage fee of between $2500 and $3500 when we could dock it in our driveway for free – well almost free.

Here you see our rig resting on the cement company scales.

10,760 lbs. is the combined weight shown of our boat and trailer, after I removed the truck from the scale.

When we first backed our boat into the driveway of our home, I saw right away we would not have enough room to park the boat in the existing driveway and get a vehicle into the garage at the same time. It was evident that we were going to need to have our driveway widened, therefore explaining the comment that parking in our driveway was “almost” free. We decided to have our driveway professionally excavated to make it wide enough to store our boat and provide plenty of additional room to access our garage. My rational for the $1,550 expense was that the driveway widening was a one-time event, whereas seasonal dockage fees are recurring on an annual basis.

Notice the line from the boat stern to the outside furthest dock post, used for leverage (in this case) to keep the stern from getting away from the short dock.

The change of latitude also meant I had to clean the salt-water residue that was still lingering in Kismet’s mechanical systems. One the first maintenance projects I wanted to accomplish was to flush the systems out with salt free, and fresh, Lake Michigan water. On a crisp spring day I trailered our boat across town to the local boat ramp and backed her far enough into the water so that all the through hulls were submerged. After running the engine, generator, and Cruisair air/heater for 20 minutes each I felt better knowing we had fresh water in the main arteries of our boat. Next stop was our local concrete company where I found out I could have our Tug weighed on their large scales. Weighing in at 10,760 lbs (9,200 lbs. for the boat and 1,560 lbs for the trailer), I felt more comfortable knowing I was not trying to tow around more weight than my truck or the trailer could handle.

A couple of weeks after we had settled back into land based living we decided our first boat trip would be to Torch Lake, one of our favorite inland lakes, located only 17 miles from our home. Although Lisa and I had spent many days and nights in our early boating recreational activities on Michigan’s longest (19 miles) and deepest (285') inland lake, we had not plied her waters in a long time, reminding us about another of the benefits of trailerable boating we were seeking to enjoy.

When launching or retrieving the hydraulic braking pump should not be submerged, making some boat ramps problematic, as was almost the case on Elk Lake.

Twenty years ago we had a 21' Four Winns cuddy cabin that could be launched just about anywhere, however our Ranger Tug 27' is not quite that easy, therefore launching requires some forward planning. With proper ramp launching our boat is relatively a smooth process, but I always need to make sure the ramp is paved, long enough, that the water is deep enough and preferably there is a dock to tie up to while parking truck and trailer. The ramps I was familiar with on Torch Lake either did not have the proper depth, long enough launch pad (or no pad at all), or the launch area was too congested for 55' of truck and loaded trailer. The good news is that Torch Lake is connected to Elk Lake via Torch River and it was on Elk Lake, through some prior research, I found the perfect launch site – well almost perfect.

On a short ramp, as shown here, we never let our rear trailer tires go beyond where the cement part of the ramp ends. If you look close, you’ll see we have a foot to spare.

Whitewater Township, on Elk Lake, has a wonderful camp/RV park along with a boat ramp and a large, free, overnight parking lot. Upon arrival we always walk around a launch site to see if we can find any problems that might arise before we approach the launch, we found the Whitewater facility, although a good site, might pose a few challenges for our launch. The deficiencies that presented themselves were that the dock was short and the water was just barely deep enough to float our 27' boat. Not to be deterred, we prepped the boat with lines for launching, with careful consideration to the very short dock. Based on the docks length I knew the stern of the boat, once floating, would hang out well past the end of the dock. My goal was to prevent the stern from getting away from us. I figured I’d need an extra line coming from the swim platform and bow to use as leverage to keep the starboard side of the boat parallel to the dock, so the boat would not get away from Lisa as she secures the boat while I park the truck and trailer.

With water clarity like this you can quickly visualize and maneuver away from potential hazards.

I backed the boat down the ramp and into the water, just far enough so that it was still tethered to the trailer. We secured both the bow and stern line, loose enough to the dock, so I could continue with the launching, until the boat floated free from the trailer. It was at this point I stopped the truck on the ramp so I could go and help Lisa pull in the bowline, using a dock piling for leverage. The short dock could not support the 40 percent of the boat that was hanging past the end of the dock, especially with the force of the wind against the port side of Kismet. The bow leverage was needed to help keep the stern from forcing the boat completely away from the dock and out into the open waters of Elk Lake. If we would not have had those two lines semi-secured at the time of final launch it would have been a fairly ugly scene. As it turned out the stern line was not needed this time but had the wind been stronger, forcing the boat away from the dock on its starboard side, it would have been critical to secure the stern in order to keep the front of the boat parallel to the dock.

As you can see, the bridge clearance was minimal for Kismet’s grand entrance into Torch Lake.

Glad to have our short, dock launch, learning experience behind us, we ventured out towards Torch Lake via a five-mile cruise across Elk Lake, Lake Skegemog, and finally Torch River. We had planned a three-day weekend of cruising and anchoring in places that had been favorites of ours 20 years ago. In the ensuing years our boats were not trailerable and more suited for long distance cruising than inland lakes. We would not trade those years for anything, the experiences were life changing and priceless, but I have to say, we sure missed the beauty and grace that now laid before our eyes as we made our way up Torch River, inching ever closer to the magic that is Torch Lake.

With water so clear, the sandy seabed revealed embedded log debris so vividly it felt as if we could simply reach into the water and touch them – an entertaining illusion. With plenty of water depth for our three-foot draft, as long as we remained in the main channel of the two-mile long Torch River, we had no problems navigating up to Torch Lake. Taking in the scenery, as we leisurely made our way, we noticed that things looked remarkably the same, almost as they did twenty years ago, apart from a few new cottages.

That’s us, young and in love, in the early 1990s on Torch Lake in our 21' Four Winns.

When we launched on Elk Lake I had not raised our mast, to keep our overall height below the 10'4" clearance the Torch River Bridge needed, this was our last obstacle before entering Torch Lake. As we approached the bridge we found boats lined up at the fuel dock, boats in front of us were going out into the lake and boat traffic was coming in as well. I knew at a 8' 8" air draft we had less than a two-foot clearance to get under the bridge, but the closer we got, the less confident I was. Did I get good information about the bridge clearance? Were we about to skin off the top of Kismet’s pilothouse? Were the throngs of people on boats, coming and going on the river, about to witness a boating calamity? As these thoughts were quickly going through my head, we glided under the bridge and out into the vast turquoise water of Torch Lake. It felt good to be at the 45th parallel cruising on Torch Lake again.