Oct. 30, 2022
Not even 50 miles of freezing Lake Michigan can stop their love story
HALFWAY ACROSS LAKE MICHIGAN — They have come to know him on the 6 a.m. ferry to Muskegon.
Jeremy Haversack is sitting in the ship’s premier cabin, wearing a black sweatshirt and a Brewers cap, a colorful bouquet of flowers on the seat beside him. His back is turned to the dark Wisconsin shoreline and his gaze is directed east toward Michigan.
“Are you bringing her back today?” asks Ashley, the steward, as she collects drink orders.
“Yes, I am,” replied Jeremy, who is 48.
This is a Great Lakes love story. Jeremy lives in Kiel, Wis.; his girlfriend, Melissa, lives in Grand Rapids, Mich. In between them: 50 miles of freezing blue lake, a distance surmountable only by hours of driving in Chicago traffic, some ludicrous flight plan, or, at 6 a.m. or 12:30 p.m., seven days a week, the Lake Express ferry.
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Jeremy always brings flowers (“whatever the gas station has at 4 a.m.,” he joked), though today he is not staying long on her side of the water. After he retrieves Melissa from Muskegon, they’re getting right back on this boat, then crossing back across the lake to make an afternoon Brewers game.
It’s not lost on Jeremy that he could have just picked up Melissa on his side of the lake, and saved himself a pre-dawn wake up call, a $261 round-trip ticket, two time zone changes, and five hours of waves choppy enough to send beverages sliding off tables and lesser passengers scrambling for motion sickness bags.
But the couple is too often separated, and Jeremy does not intend to waste a moment. “It’s two and a half hours more that I get to see her,” he said.
For now, their circumstances keep Jeremy and Melissa separated. So two or three times a month, one of them boards this ferry for a trip to the opposite shore.
Jeremy feels at home on the water. He grew up on Elkhart Lake, and started fishing on Lake Michigan when he was 5. Now, he owns his own construction company and spends a couple of nights a week on his own boat. It would be more if not for Wisconsin winters.
He and Melissa met on a boat, too — his boat — on a trip to Manitowoc, Wis., in May of this year, when their groups of friends converged. The two of them talked for a couple of weeks. Then Jeremy, and his green Harley-Davidson, boarded this first-date ferry for Michigan, and took Melissa on a ride by the lake. They’ve been an item ever since.
Through Melissa’s eyes, Jeremy has learned to appreciate Michigan, with its many port cities and lakeside roads. They like to hike together, on both sides of the lake, and to seek out new places to go miniature golfing. (Asked who’s the better mini-golfer, Jeremy answered diplomatically: “Yep.”) He said he loves Melissa for her “intoxicating giggle.”
To make this trip, Jeremy has to navigate time zones (he’s in Central, she’s in Eastern) but also two other competing schedules: the regular clock, which dictates the ferry’s departure and arrival times, and what he calls the “Melissa clock,” which seems to always run 10 to 15 minutes behind. He’ll probably need to wait a little this morning, but he doesn’t mind.
By the time the ferry docks in Muskegon, Jeremy has been traveling four hours, including the long drive from his home in Kiel to the port in Milwaukee. He makes his way down the gangplank wearing a shy smile, holding the flowers behind his back.
On the other side of the terminal, though Jeremy can’t see her yet, Melissa is already arriving. Today, she’s right on time.
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