CHAPTER 8 AUG 25 2007
BOTTOM HALF OF LAKE MICHIGAN, CHICAGO, & ILLINOIS RIVER
We continued to enjoy the municipal marinas all the way down the coast of MICHIGAN on LAKE MICHIGAN (quite a bargain at $1 a foot including power and water) making stops at the delightful towns of MANISTEE, PENTWATER, WHITEHALL, MONTAGUE, GRAND HAVEN, HOLLAND, ST JOSEPH and NEW BUFFALO. We admired the steep cliffs and sand dunes that line most of the shoreline. People in Michigan are quite serious when it comes to fishing, and there are many fishing charter boats. Most town docks have "fish stations" where you can clean and filet your catch. We watched a fellow (see picture) in Manistee who, for $2, will skin, clean and filet your fish - and it took him less than 25 seconds per fish! We were fortunate to visit many interesting town historical societies all down the coast. Most towns also have trails for walking and biking, all along the waterfront. See picture of Ray by the world’s largest weathervane in Montague. In Grand Haven, we enjoyed a Big Band concert (see picture), followed by the famous "Musical Fountain" – a synchronized musical program with water and multicolored lights! In Holland, we treated ourselves to a fabulous resort marina (see picture) for the bargain price of $1.50 a foot. (Those of us who cruise pricey Long Island Sound can appreciate what a deal this is!) In St Joseph, we stayed at PIER 33 WEST over the Labor Day Holiday. What a friendly, wonderful group of people (see picture) on that dock! We hope to see them again next year. Many thanks to Scott, Loren, Barb & George, and everyone else for making us feel so welcome! Ray also enjoyed "Wolf Marine Store" at this stop – he managed to spend quite a bit of money there! And, we had the BEST ribs at "Lark’s and Son Car Wash and BBQ"! We enjoyed the beach in New Buffalo (see picture) which was our last stop on the Lake Michigan. On Sep 5th we left New Buffalo and crossed 40 miles of Lake Michigan to Chicago (see picture).
Ray and I spent a week in CHICAGO, and enjoyed every minute of it (except that we lost an hour of daylight, we’re in Central Time zone now)! One of the first things we did was take the hour long "Architectural Boat Tour" (see picture) of the city. Our narrator was just incredible! During our time in Chicago, we visited Navy Pier, which has an incredible Tiffany Stained Glass collection as well as 150 foot Ferris wheel and beautiful "Crystal Garden" (see pictures). We also visited Millennium Park (see pictures), many museums (Field Museum -see pictures- was our favorite), and many restaurants. We also biked to the zoo (see picture) and by the great beaches (see picture) on the pathway that surrounds much of the Chicago waterfront. Our best tour guide in Chicago was a dear friend, Steve Wert. Steve and Connie drove us all around the city, pointing out the Loop, many famous buildings including the new Trump Tower, Wrigley Field (surrounding apartment buildings have their own bleachers on the roof!), and much more. The four of us enjoyed Chicago style pizza at "Giordano’s". Another friend Roger, came to visit and also gave us a car tour of other areas of the city, ending with a delicious lunch at "Pegasus" in Chicago’s Greek neighborhood. Many thanks to Steve and Roger! One of the last buildings we visited was the John Hancock Observatory, known as "Big John". From the 94th floor, we had a fantastic view of the city (see picture of skyscrapers, harbor and rooftop pools)! There were more people we wanted to visit and catch up with, but with cooler weather approaching, we just ran out of time, and had to move on.
ILLINOIS RIVER for the next 326 miles.
On 9/11/07, we left Chicago and traveled to Joliet IL, at mile 288. Passing through downtown Chicago was awesome, but there are so many low bridges (see picture), that it’s nerve-racking even though we have the mast lowered and the antennas down! Now, we are back to doing locks, and we also have to contend with the tug and barge traffic carrying chemicals, coal, grain, gravel and mulch. Some tugs (see picture) push 15 barges – 3 across and 5 deep – very intimidating! Whatever the tug captains tell you to do – you do. They call the shots, and tell you when and where to proceed, pass, or wait. Tugs and barges also have priority in the locks. Pleasure craft have to wait - commercial traffic has priority. (This is nothing like the lovely park setting locks in Canada where pleasure craft is the only traffic.) There are many Asian Carp (1 to 3 feet) in these waters, and they are considered a nuisance. Our next stops were at Hidden Cove Marina at mile 252.5, and Henry Harbor at mile 196.1. Both were only 50 cents a foot! Illinois Valley Yacht Club (IVY) at mile 167.9 was a nice stop on Sep 14th, as was town of Havana, Tall Timbers Marina at mile 120.3 on Sep 15th . A couple of weeks ago, IL River was above flood stage and caused many problems for the "loopers". Now we have the opposite problem. The water is receding, and many marinas are closing because of low water levels. Large draft sailboats are having the most problems finding a place to stay. Anchoring is only possible in select areas because of the danger from 24/7 barge traffic. On Sep 16th we found a nice anchorage behind Bar Island at mile 85.5, then spent the next couple of days in Grafton IL shopping and catching up on paperwork, bills and emails. We have now completed the Illinois River and start down the Mississippi River tomorrow, Sep 19th.
We continue to be blessed with great weather although for a short while it cooled down to the 60’s. We’ve continued to enjoy many parties and dinners with fellow "loopers", as well as lively discussions of our travels as we cruise from port to port. Great friendships are being formed, and good times are being had by all. Those of us lucky enough to be doing the "Great Loop" are certainly enjoying this lifestyle.
So far we have traveled 2042 nautical miles on this trip, plus the previous 1000 miles when we brought SUMMERTIME up the Intracoastal Waterway from Charleston SC to Old Saybrook CT in 2005. We look forward to hearing from friends and family. Please keep the calls and emails coming!