By+Susan E. Miller
It started as a small In-Spa-Ration.
Then it became a bigger In-Spa-Ration.
Now it is a really big Caribbean Dream.
Dennis and Joyce Dudycha know a thing or two about relaxing. They are, after all, the owners of Evergreen Spas & Saunas, with stores in Mishawaka, IN and St. Joseph, MI. Their business is helping people find the right unit to sink into for at-home relaxation. However, their idea of absolute serenity isn’t sitting in the water, but rather being on it.
The Dudycha’s have a passion for boats and have been motoring around Lake Michigan for 16 years. Their hobby began as just an idea.
“I was visiting my sister in Portland. They had gotten a boat and we spent the weekend on it,” Joyce said.
When she got home, she told Dennis they should look into getting one, too. Having grown up on a small inland lake, he was already a water lover, so it wasn’t hard to persuade him.
They soon found a 28-foot boat they were interested in. Their first time at the helm, on their test cruise, they admit to not really knowing what they were doing. But, they were hooked and In-Spa-Ration soon became a big part of their lives. To learn boating rules, Dennis took a Coast Guard Power Squadron course.
As their love of boating grew, so did their boat. Soon there was In-Spa-Ration Two and finally the boat they wanted for many years, Caribbean Dream. It is a 37-foot Maxum sport cruiser that sleeps six, has AC/heat, a full kitchen, a generator, and a weather GPS.
From May through October, they spend every weekend at the boat. Living only 30 minutes from their Pier 1000 slip in St. Joseph, Michigan, they spend Friday evening to Sunday evening at the boat.
Their usual routine is to wash the boat, put away food for the week, mix up a drink and go sit at the picnic table at their slip and start relaxing.
“When the weather is nice, there aren’t words to describe going out on Lake Michigan,” Dennis said. “There is so much peace and serenity and calmness that comes from that.”
A popular pastime is to cruise up to Grand Mere Beach, which is part of the 1,000-acre Grand Mere State Park in Sawyer. From their dock, they can be there in 10 minutes. The spot is known to the boating set as Boaters’ Beach. You just anchor and walk or dingy in, Joyce said.
Then about once or twice a year, they’ll embark on a longer adventure by working their way up the lakeshore. Most ports are about an hour apart, so there is plenty to see along the way. They typically manage a three-day weekend trip to Saugatuck or they go farther up to Pentwater.
It isn’t always smooth sailing, of course. They have been caught in bad weather, so they’ve learned to allow an extra travel day for weather. Part of being a boater is learning to watch the weather. As a former aviator, Dennis is trained at reading the sky.
“Lake Michigan can turn on you in mere minutes,” Dennis said. “It’s no different than flying. The biggest problem people will encounter when they go out is that they don’t understand weather systems.”
Their scariest experience was six years ago on a trip back from Saugatuck. The forecast was for a calm and flat lake – but it did just the opposite. With nowhere to pull in, zero control over their craft, and 5-6 foot waves pushing them around, they actually put on their life jackets.
Occasionally, they get off of Lake Michigan and head to warmer waters. A year ago, they went scuba diving in the Bahamas. They got into diving in 2000 and now go to the Caribbean when they can.
“It’s a big part of our lives,” Joyce said.
Their weekend routine doesn’t include much entertaining of their land-lover friends or even their 27-year-old son. They use their summer weekends as a chance to catch up with marina friends.
“A lot of people are our age, and are also business owners,” Joyce said. “But we don’t talk business; we just enjoy being there.”
When they’re asked about the expense of owning a boat, Dennis looks at it as a practical business man would.
“It’s a relative question. What price do you put on enjoyment?”