Sunday, August 26, 2007


We crossed Lake Michigan Saturday August 18th from New Buffalo. The crossing was not too bad but we did have confused water with swells left over from the day and night before from the north and winds from the east. I started calling it Lake Maytag. It was a rainy day and we arrived in Chicago during the first of two days of the Chicago Air Show.

We had originally picked up a mooring ball in Monroe Harbor but the space they had for us was right in the opening of the breakwaters and with the east wind we were getting rocked terribly. We would not be able to get off the boat at all. The harbor itself is very nice and has somewhere around 1200 mooring cans installed.

I called DuSable marina next door and they said we could tie up to their wall. We gladly moved to the wall and we were able to watch the air show from our boat.

We were secure and stable but the rain continued. The next day the air show was cancelled due to the rain and fog. Bill and Birute on B & B were with us and they had friends in Chicago. Since we were right in downtown we walked around between showers to see what was in the immediate vicinity. The city has parks all along the waterfront so it is a very public place. People are in constant motion walking, running, biking and just hanging out on the waterfront. Next to our harbor is Millenium Park. This park has a large outdoor concert facility and gardens and sculptures everywhere. We saw two different free concerts at this park and watched as the kids played in these interesting video mosiac fountains that featured the faces of the people in Chicago.

There was a sculpture that was inspired by a pool of mercury that was all stainless steel and reflected the skyline and anything in front of it. It was sort of bean shaped and you could walk under the center of it and look up into it as in the second photo below. This was an interesting sculpture and quite a few people were always around it taking pictures of themselves in the mirrored finish.

On Monday we took our bikes out and rode the paths along the waterfront and then into town to the "Magnificent Mile" of shopping on Michigan Avenue. We didn't quite fit the profile for shoppers in this area.

Tuesday found us at the Museum of Science and Industry. This was a fascinating place and houses the original German U-Boat U-505 that was captured by the U.S. and was the source for the capture of the Enigma code machine. Because the capture of the U-Boat was kept secret the German High Command did not know that the Enigma codes had been compromised and this allowed the Allies the ability to know where the subs were "hunting". We were able to tour this sub.

The museum had enough exhibits to keep you occupied for an entire day but we only did a few things there that interested us. We went "into" a coal mine and viewed a display of trains. In the train display was a scale model of the train system from Chicago to Seattle. This display was in a very large room.

Bill and Birute were able to get tickets for the four of us to see Wicked, the broadway musical about the witches in the Wizard Of Oz. It was an entertaining show and well done.

We had been keeping up with JUWIKA (Bill & Gail) since their return from the family reunion and they were stuck with the Lake Michigan weather we had been dealing with. They had crossed the lake to Port Washington, WI and had their daughter Kate with them. Kate needed to catch a plane out of Chicago so they rented a car and drove down. They stayed on our boat for two nights and we had a good time catching back up with them. We walked around the city and had pizza (Chicago Deep Dish) from the creator of Chicago Deep Dish, Pizzaria Uno.

On Wednesday we toured the Navy Pier that we were docked near. There is not that much of interest to us there but would be a great place for kids. The pier is quite large and covers a 50 acre area. It has a great view back to the city and there is a stained glass museum on the pier and we walked through that and looked at stained glass panels. Many of these were from old Chicago homes and were donated.

Thursday brought major thunderstorm activity. We were somehow spared the worst of it but a marina just to the north lost docks and the city had downed trees and power lines everywhere. Tornados were reported to have touched down just to the west of the city. From Thursday through Saturday morning we had thunderstorms. All of the rivers in the area are rising and there are flood waters in the rivers where we are headed. Our plan was to leave Friday morning but we were receiving bad reports from downriver so we decided we are much better off just hanging out in Chicago.

It turns out that the "largest triathalon in the U.S." was being held in Chicago on Sunday. We had moved from our slip in DuSable marina to the pump out dock in Monroe Harbor and had a front row seat for this event. The swimming portion was in the harbor and we were docked directly in front of the change over to biking and running. It was an absolute zoo. Bill and Gail, Bill and Birute, Wayne and Lynn Flatt of Skinwalker came to our aft deck to watch the activity.

A guy stopped by to replace a tube in his tire so I helped him get the tire back on the wheel. He was a local so he was just trying to finish and said he wasn't concerned about losing his "sponsors".

All in all Chicago is a great city to be stuck in. There is a great deal to see and do here and we enjoyed it in spite of the seemingly constant rain.
We stayed one more day and then decided to leave Tuesday morning for our run to Joliet. We made it without incident and were able to tie up to the free town wall with electricity provided.
We will probably be here until Friday as we continue waiting for the river levels to drop so that we can continue without being caught somewhere that isn't free or as nice an area.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Lake Michigan

This will be a long post as it covers almost all of Lake Michigan.

We left Traverse City where we were visiting with Lee and Sara and headed out to the open lake and a stop in Leland. Leland was originally a commercial fishing town and the old "Fishtown" part of Leland was saved and the buildings are all now small stores except for one still operating family owned fish shop.

While we were in the marina at Leland we were visited by a family of otters. A mother and three pups were fishing at the back of our boat. They would go into the weeds on the bottom and bring up crawfish. Stacy was on the swim platform and they would come up and "show" her their catch. The one thing that is not good about otters around boats is that they have a tendency to climb into the exhaust ports and then will chew through the exhaust hose inside the boat. This has caused more than one boat to sink in a marina. The pups tried getting into our exhaust but did not go in. These are just about the cutest animals you can encounter so Stacy took many pictures.

We met the Millers on "Miller Time" in Leland and ended up in Frankfort the next day with them. Bruce and Susan from Gulf Cart (we met in Mackinac Island) were there and Lee and Sara drove over to meet us in Frankfort so we went out to dinner. We had dessert back at the boats and visited until Lee and Sara had to leave to go back home.

On the way to Frankfort we passed by the Sleeping Bear Dunes that we had seen while visiting with Lee and Sara. They were just as impressive from the water.

From Frankfort we headed down to Manistee. We only stayed one night there but I did get a chance to go to the local town museum. This museum was really nice. They had tons of old photos and documents from the time that this was a major timber town. The upstairs of the museum was set up as the dentist's office, some living quarters and the office of the major timber company. The downstairs was set up as the general store and drug store. This building was used for all of this and most of the items there were there all along.

When we left Manistee we headed out into a misty rain but the lake was calm. We went through an area with a large number of fish traps out. We had to keep a sharp lookout for either floats along a net or individual flags locating the end of a net line.

Since we had such calm conditions we made a long day of it and went all the way down to Grand Haven. Grand Haven has a wall along a "boardwalk" in the center of town and this wall is free for tying up. I had to use my fabricated PVC pipe fender board but we were able to tie securely to this wall. Directly across from us is a fountain that is used to put on a show each night with lights and music. Everyone comes out to see this 20 minute show even though it has been going on since 1962.

We were there over a weekend so we got to see all of the locals "cruise" the strip in their boats every evening. There were at least 50 boats visible at any time and all of them seemed to just go along the riverfront trying to see and be seen.

The entry breakwater is at the end of the walkway in town and a beach is next to it. Since it was hot here (80's) everyone was out on the beach. We rode our bikes out to the breakwater and watched as the local teenagers jumped from the breakwater into the lake. Quite a few boats would anchor outside the designated swimming area of the beach and swim in from their boats. The breakwater had what appeared to be a walkway out to the lighthouse but apparently is only a structure to carry wiring. We were assuming it was to get out to the lighthouse for maintenance in the winter when the breakwater would be covered in ice.

Grand Haven is a large town and has plenty to offer. We had been told about a local restaurant with "Dueling Pianos" Two grand pianos and a drum set were the instruments and the three players were exceptionally good. We went in and ordered an appetizer so we could stay to hear them and we were there for four hours. They knew almost any song someone could request and most were songs that we knew. We thought this would be a good thing to do in Athens as an alternative to the typical college town bar and band.

From Grand Haven we headed down to Saugatuck. We had obviously hit a more upscale town as there were no touristy tee shirt shops to speak of. Instead it was predominately artsy with shops of eclectic decorative items, candles and clothing. We were anchored out here as the marina rates were also rather upscale. Saugatuck has the last (or one of the last) remaining hand cranked chain ferrys in the country. This ferry crosses the river to get to Oval Beach (reported to be in the top 10 in the country and top 2 of freshwater beaches). Stacy cranked us across the river and we hiked to the beach. We really did not see what all the fuss was about as it looked just like all the other beaches we have seen on the lake.

Saugatuck is also the home of a saved steam ship from the era of steam ship travel. This one was purchased by an individual to save it from being scrapped and he turned it into a museum.

This ship was primarily used for cargo but did take passengers as well. This one was in service from 1907 until the 1960's. The passenger areas were very much first class for the day and the ship is set up just as it was when in service.

We stayed in Saugatuck until we felt we had a good weather window to head further south for staging to cross the lake to Chicago. We wanted to go to New Buffalo as this would give us a shorter crossing. We watched the weather forecasts and decided to go when we got a forecast of two to four foot waves with wind from the south. When we headed out the breakwater the conditions were as forecasted. Not too much later they changed rather quickly. What was two to fours were now four to sixes or more. We were crashing into these waves and taking green water over the bow. The waves broke one of the fender holders and we were having to hold on well to keep from getting thrown about. After 3 hours we got to St. Joseph/Benton Harbor and headed in to escape the pounding. After we were settled in a couple from another boat came over and said that they had been on the breakwater wall looking at the conditions when they saw us coming in. The had a camera with them and took pictures of us and had their phone ready to call for help as they thought for sure that we would get rolled in the entry channel. They were even more surprised that "there is a girl driving!". The entry channel was not as bad as the open lake and we did not feel that we were ever in any danger but were glad to get in to a safe harbor.

We went on to New Buffalo the next day in much better conditions and waited there for a good day to cross over to Chicago. We waited from Wednesday until Saturday and decided it would be the best day to cross. The other boat (that took the pictures in St. Joe) went to New Buffalo as well and we crossed together. It was two to four foot seas that, instead of on our bow, were on the beam so we rolled a good bit. It was not nearly as dramatic as the previous Monday and we made it to Chicago by noon.

We are in the rain in Chicago and plan to stay here for most of next week so we will update after we see some of what the city has to offer.