Stuck in Saugatuk

First of All -

  • First piece of damaged gear
  • First time cruising in the dark
  • First use of the full cockpit surround
  • First thunderstorm experienced on the cruise

Namely Speaking-

  • Saugatuk

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 12.5; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 41.5
  • Hours Underway: 3
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: NA
  • Wind Speed: 12; Wind Direction: S
  • Daily High Temperature: 77
  • Water Temperature: 72

I rise at 4am as planned, unsure about whether I’ll attempt a move south. It’s been breezy and bouncy in the marina all night. I’m not sure how successfully I can back out of our slip in the dark, with this cross wind, and without assistance. I’m also uneasy about conditions out on the big lake. But then I look around at our surroundings and decide to go for it. I start undoing our nice black braid sheathed dock lines and immediately discover that the line securing the starbard stern of the boat to a rough steel piling (no cleat available at the end of the dock) has badly chaffed, and the white core of the line is exposed and badly chewed up. It will clearly need to be retired and replaced with a backup line. I turn on my running lights, pleased that they all light up with the turn of a breaker switch, start the engine, and prepare to back out. I untie all but 2 docklines, and walk the boat to the back of the slip, give her a final shove, hop aboard, and quickly take the wheel and shift into reverse. The wind catches the boat’s bow, which brushes the piling on the port side of the slip, but it’s a light touch and no harm, no foul. I turn out into the main arm of the lake, set the autopilot, and go forward to secure docklines. I don’t bother bringing fenders in. Hey, its dark out there and no one will ever notice. I carefully follow the navigation lights and the channel on my Garmin to the harbor entrance, pass by the tall red light near the end of the jetty, and cruise out into the blackness of Lake Michigan. It’s again very bouncy, and I hold my speed down to about 5.5mph, which enables me to avoid bouncing the hull on waves more than just once or twice. I’m hoping Sandy will be able to sleep through all this. I’m wearing a pair of walking shorts and a wind breaker, and soon find I should have dressed warmer. The wind chill becomes quite uncomfortable. I set a waypoint for the mouth of the Kalamazoo River, some 7 miles distant, and once I get on course, I can just make out the red and green lights which mark the end of the jetty. It’s a convenient target to steer toward, and I hold very close to the course line on the GPS. It takes about an hour and a half to reach my waypoint. On the way I briefly consider contuing onward to South Haven, but end up deciding to head for Saugatuk on the Kalamazoo. It looks like a nice place, with some interesting things to see and do if we get pinned down there by winds on the Lake. As I near the entrance I spot several boats heading out, presumably to do some salmon fishing. Predawn light welcomes me into the channel, and I take my time following the twisting course of the Kalamazoo River upstream toward Saugatuk. The shore is heavily forested, and near town I begin passing some impressive homes. Sandy wakes up as I enter Lake Kalamazoo, and she gets dressed so she can help me to dock. It’s too early for any of the marinas to be open, so I simply tie up at the fuel dock at Seargant’s Marina. After breakfast I seek out the dockmaster. He’s a nice guy, but I’m not enthused at the $72/night rate he quotes. He says Tower Marina cross the lake is a bit lower, and we decide to head there. This proves to be an excellent choice. It’s a beautiful facility, very well maintained, with beds of bright begonias, and an inviting pool. The docks are well designed and easy to tie up to. The $52/night rate is higher than I’m used to, but easier than across the lake. They have a nice, almost free on demand bus service which will take us anywhere we might like to go. This looks like a good place to hang out until we’re able to move again.

DSCF7588My cough isn’t improving, and putting the cockpit surround up really saps my energy. Shortly after lunch we get slammed with the predicted thunderstorm. Several lightning strikes are close to right overhead. The rain comes down in sheets. Our new bimini has a few leaks, since we haven’t sealed the seams, but it keeps most of the rain off. I take a long nap and is refreshing. I’m able to buy a new dockline at the marina office, which matches the others perfectly. I’ll cut the damaged end off the old one and sew a new loop onto the end. It should prove useful when I need a line to tie with from a center cleat. I’m sure we’ll be here tomorrow, and likely Tuesday as well, since fairly strong winds and periods of rain are predicted. I’m hoping we don’t have to wait too long before continuing our southward journey.

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Hey look at the Australians

First of All -

  • First layover day
  • First time using local transit

Namely Speaking-

  • Douglas

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 41.5
  • Hours Underway: 0
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 13.2
  • Wind Speed: 15-20 mph; Wind Direction: SW
  • Daily High Temperature: 70
  • Water Temperature: 72

A friend of mine is currently hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and posting a blog chronicaling his experiences. When he takes a day off from hiking, he says he’s taking a “zero” day, which means he’s hiked zeroDSCF7592 miles that day. Today we’re taking a “zero” day, although I prefer to call it a weather layover day. It’s blustery from the very start, and only builds during the course of the day, and this is the case 3 miles inland, where we’re securely moored. I can only imagine what it’s like out on the big lake. This situation bothers me a bit. Conventional strategy calls for loopers to reach Chicago by Labor Day, to lessen the chances of encountering the onset of fall cold fronts. However, fall like weather has arrived early. We have over 6000 miles to go, and we’ve traveled less than 60 miles thus far, and we still have over 100 miles of open Lake Michigan water to cruise. It’s easy to think that the wind will keep blowing like this for weeks on end, preventing us from safely reaching Chicago and the start of river/lock cruising on more protected waters. I intuitively know this won’t happen, and we’ll get a break soon. Sure enough, a check of the forecast shows that the front will pass today, tomorrow will noticeably improve, and Wednesday is setting up to be very good, with winds 7 to 11 mph out of the northwest forecast. If that comes to pass, we should be able to get a pleasant boost from the sails and cruise with, rather than against, the seas. I formulate a plan to stay in the marina again tonight, and then check out tomorrow. We’ll cruise down the Kalamazoo river in the early afternoon to the little anchorage I spotted on the way in yesterday morning. We can moor there tomorrow night and be in a good position for a quick jump off early on Wednesday.

DSCF7596I slept well last night, and feel much better when I get up. Since we’re taking a layover day we get a leisurely start on the day. I tend to a few light boat chores, such as whipping a loop on my damaged and thus shortened dock line. It will now serve well as an extra dock line, useful as a spring line. I also glue the decorative lighthouse back atop the paper towel holder, and put up a couple of new command hooks, which will hold some of our little charging cords. Around 10 am I call the Interurban Bus service and request a pickup, so we can ride into Saugatuk. The Interurban is a great minivan service which operates on demand, providing pickup and dropoff service anywhere in the Saugatuk/Douglas area. The fare for seniors is 50 cents per ride, and the van arrives in 15 minutes or less. The driver is friendly and we are impressed with the service. We get dropped off in the center of Saugatuk, which is a pretty waterfront town, definitely tourist oriented and with an emphasis on the arts. We stroll the streets, enjoy lunch at an open air riverfront restaurant, and then check out the historic (1838) and still operating chain passenger ferry. It’s closed today because of the high winds. We sit on a shady bench to call the Interurban for a lift over to Douglas, which is located across the river and while waiting there we watch the town’s one and only “duck boat”, loaded with tourists, motor up the street. The driver looks our way and, on his loud PA system says “Hey, look at the Australians”. He’s referring to us. He’s taken our Tilly hats to be Aussie outback hats.

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We get dropped off in Douglas and wander its streets a bit, stopping at their museum which is housed in an historic school house. The museum is closed, but the grounds are lovely, with a nice formal flower garden in back. We see an open boat house, which houses a historic lifeboat, constructed of riveted iron plates and one of only two still in existance. It was constructed in 1854, by the same company which built the Union’s Civil War ironclad, Monitor. Exhibits in the boathouse chronicle the tragic and heroic history of shipwreck and rescue on stormy Lake Michigan. I ponder the number of wrecked ships, all listed here, as I listen to the wind howl through the trees. I hope that forecast for Wednesday holds to be true.

Sandy stops at the local grocery to pick up a few items and then we catch our final Interurban ride back to the marina. The outing has tired me (I’m low on energy related to my cough), so I’m glad to get back to the boat and catch a nice nap. It’s still quite gusty as evening settles in. Hopefully things will start to settle down tomorrow.

Computer Aggravation

First of All -

  • First time anchoring out
  • First time dinghying ashore to explore

Namely Speaking-

  • Star of Saugatuk

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 3.4; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 43.9
  • Hours Underway: 3/4 hour
  • Fuel: x gallons
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 13.04
  • Wind Speed: 11mph ; Wind Direction: NW
  • Daily High Temperature: 66
  • Water Temperature

Throughout history generals have erred by preparing to fight the last war, and thus failing to anticipate the newest threat. I fear that I’ve fallen into that trap. In preparing for this trip I was ever mindful of things that have caused trouble on past cruises, and I did my upmost to address those issues. I focused on the truck, the trailer, the boat’s batteries and charging system, the boat’s wiring, THE STOVE, the depth sounder, the autopilot, and a host of other things that have previously balked. I’m pleased to say that, so far at least, these preparations have paid off with not one failure in those areas. The one thing that escaped our attention, however, has really stood up and bitten us. I’m referring to our laptop. It’s fairly new, and thus has a few quirks we haven’t yet gotten comfortable with. Just before we took off, we downloaded Windows 10 onto it, which I’m thinking may have been a big mistake. In so doing we lost our early version of Adobe, which wouldn’t work on the newer Windows program. I next discovered that Windows 10 treats my favorite picture editing program, Picassa, in read only mode, and I can’t get it to save my changes. While trying to fix that, Picassa ended up disappearing completely. How does this happen? Then last evening, while trying to figure out how to get Sandy’s new geneology program to open, we discovered that our 12 volt adapter, which worked great with our old laptop, can’t be recognized as a power source by this newer, better laptop. This left us with the backup plan of plugging the 110 volt charger into our inverter. Except that when I did that, the inverter chirped and said it didn’t have enough oomph to charge the laptop. Wow, when it rains, it pours. This morning, Sandy did get tech support to walk her through how to open her new program, however, without charging ability, she won’t be able to use it except when we’re plugged in at marinas. To top it all off, we somehow ended up losing the ability to connect to the marina’s wifi. I’m still typing this blog, while my power lasts. I did discover that the inverter seems able to charge the laptop when it’s turned off, so maybe we can run off the computer’s battery and then recharge it by turning it off. Meanwhile, our trusty son Ken is remotely researching a 12 volt charger which will work with this darned thing. If we can locate one, the plan is to purchase it on line and have it fast shipped, general delivery, to a marina up ahead of us, probably in Chicago. If I only had tested the charging cords out at home. Oh well. Hello generals, I’m not nearly so critical of you now.

DSCF7599Because of our computer woes, we really don’t begin our day until 1:30pm, when we finally pull the plug on the computer and ready the boat to depart.DSCF7601 We back out of our slip shortly before 2pm and cruise at no wake speed past the Saugatuk waterfront and down the Kalamazoo river. It is overcast, cool, and breezy, but not as strong as the past 2 days. In fact, the forecast is for steadily diminishing wind through this evening, with near calm conditions by morning. We slide into the little bay near the mouth of the river, just inside the start of the south breakwater. We have the place all to ourselves, so I pick the best possible spot out and drop anchor in 4.5 feet of water. For the first time on this trip, we’re swinging on the hook. We don our lifejackes, grab the camera, and row ashore in the dinghy. We spend a pleasant hour wandering along the many trails which meander through grass covered sand hills and scattered woods. I peek out at the big lake, in time to see a power boat bust her way through the waves. It’s a dramatic and intimidating sight. While out walking, we watch the sternwheeler excursion boat Star of Saugatuk venture down the river and into the fringe of our bay. He stands clear of the channel entrance, which looks formidable with a steady 3 foot swell surging in from Lake Michigan. Soon he retreats out of sight, back upriver. By the time we return to our boat the wind has dropped somewhat, and the swell in the channel has noticably reduced as well. When the Star returns an hour later with one last batch of tourists, she bravely heads right past us and down the channel, into the big lake. This really assures me that, coupled with our forecast, conditions favor an early start tomorrow morning for a run down to St. Joseph/Benton Harbor.

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Rockin and Rollin to St. Joseph

First of All -

  • First time on the trip out of sight of land
  • Deepest water of the trip – first time beyond the 100 foot depth contour
  • First time encountering fellow Loopers on the trip (actually, two Looper boats, both from the Pacific Northwest, too!
  • First marina with free laundry – even free detergent

Namely Speaking-

  • Benton Harbor/St. Joseph

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 44; Sail: (motor sailed with partial jib about 3 hours)
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 88
  • Hours Underway: 7.5
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: NA
  • Wind Speed: 11kts; Wind Direction: N
  • Daily High Temperature: 66
  • Water Temperature:70

I’m up at 4am sharp, and off the anchor shortly after 4:30am. It’s tricky getting into the center of the channel and properly headed out into the big lake. Very dark outside and misting lightly. I use my spotlight to locate the sides of the two breakwaters, however its glare kills my night vision. I go slowly so I have time and room to correct if I get disoriented. I see the red and green buoy lights up ahead, at the ends of the two breakwaters, and I try to keep my course centered between them. These aids, plus occasional checks with my spotlight, and a glance at the GPS are sufficient to get me out of the channel and onto the main lake. I had expected calmer water, given the die off of wind overnight, but by the feel of the swell entering the channel, I know that this is not to be. The seas feel about 2 feet or so in height. I keep going straight out into deeper water for a half mile or so before starting a gradual turn to the south. The boat has a sharp up and down motion, with the seas striking off the starboard stern quarter. I set a way point and try to get the feel of the water. After a couple of miles I engage the autopilot and settle into the long run down to Benton Harbor. I pretty much have the whole lake to myself. Before daylight, I see only one other boat sneaking past me on the port side. As the sky begins to brighten, to a leaden gray, I spot several sport fishing boats headed out to the 100 foot contour, probably from South Haven.

I’m finding Lake Michigan to be a very monotonous, yet intimidating body of water. It looks like an ocean, but the lack of visible sea life is tangible. I miss the chance of seeing a dolphin or whale, or even some seaweed or sea birds. The grand total for the day is 2 gulls. The closely spaced seas are simply nasty. They build until they are regularly running 4 to 5 feet, which ordinarily wouldn’t be a big deal, but as closely spaced as they are, they really rock the boat. And every so often, a big set hit us on the beam, really rolling us, as far as 30 degrees of heel, maybe more. When they hit, they’re often peaking with the prevailing seas, and we corkscrew off the top. In the end, it’s simply too much for the autopilot and I steer the final 12 miles manually. I’m able to run the jib out for about 3 hours, and it seems to help steady the boat, but as I near the entrance to St. Joseph I have to roll it in. About the only sight seen along the way is the big nuclear power plant near South Haven. It can be seen for miles.

Sandy has been below for most of the run, and I can’t imagine how uncomfortable it must be down below, given the motion of the boat. She finally opens the hatch about an hour before we reach St. Joseph and hands me a mug of coffee. We finally reach the entrance to the harbor and with great relief pass between the two breakwaters and out of the swell. I try reaching West Basin Marina by phone and radio, without luck, so go in anyway. We tie up at the fuel dock, and I find a young guy in the office. I understand that he’s been out mowing the grass, which explains why I couldn’t reach anyone. He assigns us a slip and helps us tie up. The place looks nice, and has nice restrooms. We get squared away and decide to lay down for naps before tackling the laundry. I am just dropping off when a coughing fit hits me and I can’t sleep. I try again and then hear “Ahoy Chinook” from outside the boat. I climb out of the boat and greet two fellow Loopers, also from Washington State. We’ve communicated by email over the past several months. Lo and behold, here they are. We have a nice conversation, and they tell me another Looper is in the marina, and also from the Northwest, a couple from Victoria BC. It’s a Northwest rendezvous!

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Picture on the left is of the Loop boat owned by the couple from Victoria. Note the AGLCA burgee on the bow rail.

I’m tending the laundry right now, while Sandy finishes her nap. She’d taken a Bonine this morning and it really made her drowsy. We’ll probably barbque tonight. Tomorrow’s weather forecast looks great for a run down to Michigan City, but then, that’s what I thought about today’s run. Time will tell.

Best Day Yet

First of All -

  • First time calling another boat on VHF
  • First time crossing a state line on the boat
  • First time meeting up with a MacGregorsailors forum member at a stop on the trip

Namely Speaking-

  • New Buffalo
  • Hoosier Slide

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 35; Sail: 0 (Motor Sailed 4 hours)
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 123
  • Hours Underway: 6
  • Fuel: 15.2 gallons (8 miles/gallon average)
  • Morning House Battery Reading: NA
  • Wind Speed: 8mph; Wind Direction: SE
  • Daily High Temperature: 72
  • Water Temperature: NA

DSCF7621After a full week of downright challenging conditions on Lake Michigan, she finally showed off her gentle side. Just as forecast, the wind is light and enough to the south for us to motor sail on gentle seas. We leave the marina around 7:15, but not before our two Northwest looper friends take off. They’re planning to go all the way across the lake to Chicago, but I’m sticking to my plan to go to Michigan City today, and make the run to Chicago tomorrow. The forecast looks good tomorrow, and I just don’t want to spend 10 hours driving the boat across the lake. We have clear sky at first, followed by a high overcast, and clearing skies as we near our destination. We’re fairly close to shore, and see the New Buffalo nuclear power plant along the way, as well as a stretch of tall sand dunes. We get a radio call from See to Sea and I answer, but he can’t hear me. I wonder about my radio until I hear him calling our other friend. I radio him and he hears me just fine. They’re doing well with their crossing. I busy myself with trying to reserve a slip for our time in Chicago. I phone Du Sable Marina and learn that they’re fully booked for the next 2 weeks. I take a chance and phone Columbia Yacht Club which is right next door to Du Sable. A very friendly guy answers and says yes, they can accomodate us. I’m elated. Then he asks what yacht club we belong to and I have to admit that we don’t belong to any yacht club. I mention that we’ve trailered across the country and are on our way around the Great Loop. He says “Your doing the Loop? Well, we do accept boats on the Loop.” I’m elated all over again. Their location is great, right in front of the heart of Chicago. Instead of slips we’ll be tying up to a long steel dock, but I imagine it will work out fine. The important thing is, we have a place to head for, in the location we desire. Next, I call the Michigan City marina and leave a message that we’d like a slip there for the night.

The cruising today is just about perfect. I set both the main and the genoa. With the light breeze I need to run the engine at justDSCF7625 under 2000 rpm in order to make 6.5 mph. The motion of the boat is easy, and the heel averages around 12 degrees. I get several texts along the way from Dave, a MacGregor owner who, like me, frequents the MacGregorsailors website and forum. Before the start of our cruise he’d sent me a message that he’d come down to the marina to greet us when we got that far, and he was more than good to his word. As we enter the marina we see this guy videoing our approach. He’s there at the fuel dock to help take lines, and then does the same at our slip. He tells us about what there is to see and do in Michigan City, and we give him a tour of our boat. It’s a fun visit, and we feel warmly welcomed by our fellow MacGregor owner. He’s the first from the forum to greet us, and I expect he’ll not be the last.

In the afternoon Sandy and I walk through an attractively landscaped park to the Lighthouse Museum. We thoroughly enjoy viewing their interesting and informative exhibits, learning much along the way about the history of this area. Michigan City was home to a large lumber mill, a major fishing industry, the Pullman boxcar manufacturing assembly line, the Smith Brothers cough drop plant (I look around for free samples but am disappointed), and also the Hoosier Slide. This odd name applied to an enormous lakeshore hill of pure sand, which was quite famous until it was completely removed, one rail car at a time, and consumed in the manufacture of glass. All that’s left are old photos of the Slide, and samples of the glass it got turned into. Today, a nuclear power plant is located here, as well as a big casino, and this beautiful municipal marina where we’re currently parked. We utilize the barbques in the pavilion at the head of our dock to grill our steaks, and sit outside in perfect tempurature to dine. A rosy sunset off in the direction of Chicago finishes off the day. What with my cough, which Sandy has now picked up, as well as the rough weather, we’ve had a somewhat rocky start, but it feels like we’re starting to get into synch, hitting the right weather when we need it, beginning to meet folks along the way, and making small adjustments to boat organization which make such a big difference when living for an extended time in a very small space.

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Flying Cleats and Floating Oars – Friday, August 28

First of All -

  • First time on trip cruising into a big city
  • First time staying at a yacht club dock
  • First deep dish Chicago style pizza

 

Namely Speaking-

  • Abegweit
  • Giordanos

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 40; Sail: (5 hours motor sailing)
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 163
  • Hours Underway: 6
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: NA
  • Wind Speed: 8 – 10; Wind Direction: SW
  • Daily High Temperature: 70
  • Water Temperature: 63

DSCF7636We pull out reasonably early, with the sun just rising in the east. It’s a little windier and choppier than I expected, but not particularly uncomfortable. The wind is from the stern quarter, and I’m able to motor sail with both sails up, and we make about 6 mph with the engine turning at 1800 rpm. I settle in with the autopilot steering, and begin to enjoy my coffee when I’m startled by a loud “twang”, immediately followed by a wildly luffing jib. The jib sheet trails out in the wind, and I see the starbard EZ cleat, one of a pair of jam cleats I bought specifically for this trip, sail out through the air. It assumes an arching trajectory, much like a depth charge launched from the deck of a WWII destroyer, and at a respectable distance from the boat it splashes into the lake. Unlike my old jib blocks, which are held in place with spring loaded pins, the new jam cleats must be screwed into place. Apparently, the screw wasn’t set tight enough, and this results in my dramatic hardware launch. I quickly furl the jib and get one of my tried and true jib blocks out, and I’m soon motor sailing again, but minus one EZ cleat.

Not many boats out this morning, but I do track a few which are over the horizon on the AIS. It’s quite hazy out, and we’re within 10 miles ofDSCF7638 Chicago before the city’s skyline comes into view. When I’m about 6 miles out I phone the Columbia Yacht Club for directions on how to get in and where to tie up. Tim is very helpful, and one of his dock hands is there to greet us and take our lines. The Columbia Yacht Club facilities are really amazing. The Club was chartered in 1892, the year of the Chicago Columbia Exposition, thus their selection of name. In the mid 1980’s the club got a great deal on the purchase of their club ship, the former Canadian National Railway ship Abegweit, which was built as an ice breaking railroad ferry, serving between the Candadian mainland and Prince Edward Island. The ship has a large cargo deck, where the trains were loaded. The boat deck above is set up with rest rooms, showers, etc. Next deck up is beautifully finished in dark hardwood, one end serving as a lounge and the other as a fine dining restaurant, with both indoor and outdoor seating. When I go up to sign in, Tim gives me the grand tour, and goes out of his way to welcome us and make us feel at home. We’re truly impressed with the facilities and the hospitality they extend to us.

After getting squared away, we go for a walk up into the City. I’m toting our laptop computer, and we head for the downtown Staples store, to seeDSCF7640 if they can solve some problems we’re having with it. After dropping it off we walk into the visitor information center, which is in the former public library building. We buy a pair of 5 event passes which will gain us entrance to an extensive list of Chicago’s major attractions. We walk north on Michigan Avenue, across the Chicago River and up the famous “Miracle Mile”, a very upscale shopping district. As the dinner hour approaches, we start searching for a place to have dinner. I ask a policeman on foot patrol where we can go for pizza, and he points out two places within eyesight of our corner. We pick Giordanos, which I’ve read about in the cruising guide. We have to wait 20 minutes for a table, and then close to an hour longer to get served, but the pizza was really great. After dinner we retrace our steps south on Michigan Avenue and back across the River. We take the riverfront walk down to the lakeshore and back to the boat. It’s nearly dark when I haul out the cockpit surround and begin setting it up, since rain is forecast for tomorrow. While I’m snapping the dockside side curtain down I notice a dinghy oar, my dinghy oar, lazily drifting by and soon to be heading for parts unknown. I grab the boat hook and fish it out of the water, discovering that the stainless steel pin in my new oarlock has somehow come unscrewed. I can’t believe my good fortune to have spotted the oar before it got away. I’m also happy to learn that no parts are missing. I simply screw it back together, taking care to tighten the screws on both oar locks before putting them back on the dinghy.

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Biking in the rain – Saturday, August 29

First of All -

  • First time setting up and using our folding bicycles

Namely Speaking-

  • Shedd Aquarium
  • Adler Planetarium

Loop Log: Layover Day

  • Miles Cruised today: x Power: y; Sail:
  • Total Miles Cruised to date:
  • Hours Underway:
  • Fuel: x gallons
  • Morning House Battery Reading:
  • Wind Speed: ; Wind Direction:
  • Daily High Temperature: 72
  • Water Temperature:

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First thing this morning I haul out the bike bags which contain our folding bicycles. The process is a bit awkward and difficult, but not too bad. It rained last night and appears threatening today, but we decide we’re going out sightseeing anyway, and we figure we can do our biking between rain showers. We go out for breakfast on the Club ship, and opt to sit at one of the open air tables on the side facing the club’s boat docks. The servers are friendly and the food great. While we’re eating breakfast we see Tim down on the dock, pointing to our boat and gesturing wildly with his arms, pantomiming the rocking motion of our boat, which is tied up on the exposed side of the dock. It was a bit bouncy last night, as a matter of fact. Before we take off for the day, Tim offers to give us a spot on the inside of the dock, where we’ll have more protection. It’s a kind gesture and we take him up on it. We tie up in a much nicer spot on the inside. Now we’re ready to hop on our bikes and pedal down the lakefront, toward Chicago’s museum campus. Today we plan to tour the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium. The aquarium is outstanding, with in incredible variety of small tanks exhibiting fish from all over the world. By the time we are ready to visit the planetarium it is starting to rain. It’s light enough that we don’t get very wet, and the two are really quite close together. We find the planetarium to be ok, but agree that we’ve been to better ones. We exit in a steady rain and start biking back toward the boat. Before we get very far it really starts to come down. We take temporary shelter at a bus stop until it lets up. We end the day with dinner on our boat.

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Front row seat for the TransAmerica Chicago Triathalon

First of All -

  • First front row seat at a Triathalon

Namely Speaking-

  • Field Museum

Loop Log: Layover Day

  • Miles Cruised today: x Power: y; Sail:
  • Total Miles Cruised to date:
  • Hours Underway:
  • Fuel: x gallons
  • Morning House Battery Reading:
  • Wind Speed: ; Wind Direction:
  • Daily High Temperature:
  • Water Temperature:

 

DSCF7662We’ve been forewarned. Today they’re holding the 32nd annual TransAmerica Chicago Triathalon, and like it or not, we’ve got a front row seat at the Columbia Yacht Club dock. This triathalon is really a big deal here, attracting 9000 competitors from 47 states and 17 countries. Directly across from the CYC docks is the race transition area, where all the bicycles and related gear are staged. At about 4am a guy with far too much enthusiasm and volume in his well amplified voice begins making race related announcements to the gathering competitors. He calls out the lake temperature (62.4 degrees), and gives various instructions to the participants. Spotlights illuminate the area, and thousands of bicycles have been parked on the lawn, organized into numbered waves, which represent various group start times. The first group starts at 6am, and the final wave doesn’t dive into the lake until 10am. We take our time with breakfast and watch all the activity. It will be a challenge for us to weave our way through all theDSCF7664 racers, spectators and race officials in order to get down to the Field Museum of Natural History, which is our goal for the day. We end up walking our bikes through the throng, going against the grain of competitors who have finished the swim leg and are jogging over to the bicycle transition area. We have to hold up until a break in joggers allows us to proceed. A ways down the lakeshore we reach the swim leg exit, and watch as exhausted swimmers haul themselves out of the water. The swim route follows close to the edge of the lake, and support boats are spaced fairly close together to lend assistance if needed. Some swimmers grab onto them for a bit of a rest. Once we get clear of the swim start, we’re free of the crowds, and can pedal our bikes over to the Field Museum. Unlike yesterday’s huge crowds at both the aquarium and the planetarium, we practically have the Field Museum to ourselves. It’s an immense place, and far too large to fully absorb in just one day. We focus on the bird, mammal, and dinosaur exhibits. By midafternoon we’re all “museumed out”, and we head back to the boat. By then the triathalon is over, and crews are already out cleaning up and taking down. We’ve decided to go out for dinner at the club boat restaurant, and it turns out to be an excellent choice. Once again, service is excellent and the foon outstanding. We are seated at an outdoor table on the open air foredeck. The temperature is comfortable, and we enjoy the setting sun while dining. After dinner we stroll around the decks of the ship and enjoy the view of Chicago at night.

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Down with the mast – Monday, August 31

First of All -

  • First time lowering the mast during our loop cruise

Namely Speaking-

  • Bubbling Creek

Loop Log: Layover Day

  • Miles Cruised today: x Power: y; Sail:
  • Total Miles Cruised to date:
  • Hours Underway:
  • Fuel: x gallons
  • Morning House Battery Reading:
  • Wind Speed: ; Wind Direction:
  • Daily High Temperature: 85
  • Water Temperature:

DSCF7704Very busy day ahead for us. I got a jump on things last evening by removing the boom, but this morning I must lower the mast and secure it for travel down river and under low bridges. I’ve rigged up a special extension to the mast crutch which mounts in a socket on the pedestal. This extension will give us more head room while in the cockpit, and will also allow us to keep the dodger up and open the forward hatch. I get the mast down without difficulty, and manage to avoid the dreaded “kerplunk” sound which is occasionally heard when trying to lower the mast while on the water. With the mast and rigging properly secured, I set the base of the boom on the bow pulpit and lash the boom end to the mast. This will keep it up off the deck, which I think is a good idea since we’ll be walking around up there when going through locks.

DSCF7685After securing things on the boat, including stowing the bicycles back down below, we’re ready to head back out for some additional sightseeing. Today we target the Chicago Institute of Art, which we have been told is truly a world class art museum. We’re quite overwhelmed by the place, which is on 3 levels and in many different interconnected buildings. I find it quite confusing, trying to figure out where we are and how to get to various galleries, but we do manage to view some of the museum’s outstanding paintings and sculptures. We spend time in the ancient Greek and Roman wing, and also in the European and American Art areas. There is so much more to see, but we leave in early afternoon so we can get back to Staples and retrieve our laptop. It took some doing, but the tech support guy there, Anthony, managed to solve our problem and we are most thankful that he was able to help us out. Next, we strike out for the REI store so I can replace the hat I managed to lose on our first day here in Chicago. We take a cab out to the store, and then ride the bus back to the Navy Pier, where we use up our final 5 event tickets, taking the River Architectural Tour. This turns out to be an outstanding tour, down the Chicago River and past many beautiful and interesting buildings. Our guide provides an interesting banter, and he obviously knows a great deal about Chicago’s buildings. One thing we learn is that the North Branch of the Chicago River was once known as Bubbling Creek, because of the gasses given off by all the polluted crud decomposing in its waters. Fortunately, things are much better now, but the water still can’t compare with rivers we’re accustomed to back home.DSCF7694

Headin’ down the river

First of All -

  • Transiting our first lock
  • First collision with floating debris
  • First radio conversation with tow boat regarding passing instructions
  • First time the depth sounder acts up

Namely Speaking-

  • Cicero
  • Calumet-Saginaw
  • Des Plaines
  • Joliet

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 43; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 206
  • Hours Underway: 8
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: NA
  • Wind Speed: 5; Wind Direction: SW
  • Daily High Temperature: 90
  • Water Temperature: 73

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Today we say farewell to Chicago and begin our journey downstream, with the Gulf of Mexico as our eventual destination. Its a warm, humid day which promises to get uncomfortably hot by afternoon, unless we keep the breeze. After breakfast we tend to last minute chores, in preparation for departure. I rig up the Go Pro camera on a starbard stanchion, so I can video our passage beneath Chicago’s downtown towers. I meet up with Tim and pay for our 4 nights of moorage. In a final act of hospitality he gives us a sack of ice for our cooler. At 10 minutes to 9 we leave the Columbia Yacht Club dock and head for the Chicago Lock, which separates Lake Michigan from the Chicago River. We lock through with 3 other recreational boats, all trawlers and flying the Great Loop burgee. I expect that we’ll DSCF7715all meet up more than once as we proceed down the river. They travel faster than we do, and soon we’re making our way through Chicago’s downtown, industrial area, and outer industrial area on our own. As we cruise down the channel, we see homeless living in tents along the bank. They toss their trash right into the river, so there is a lot of floating garbage along the way. Floating woody debris too, as we notice after hearing a loud “Clunk”. I hope I haven’t bent a prop, but it seems ok. What isn’t ok is my depth finder. Not long after hitting the branch, I notice my depth finder reading a steady 2.5 feet. I’ve had this problem before, and thought it was fixed. I mull over options for dealing with this for several hours, b but by mid afternoon it’s reading again. I’ll keep a close eye on it. After we pass the junction with the Calumet-Saginaw Waterway we start encountering serious barge and tow boat traffic. It gets dicey when we have barges tied up along the channel wall, and meet up with a tow boat heading upriver, pushing a train of 6 barges. I radio the captain and get his ok before proceeding to squeeze through. In one instance we have to hold up while a tow boat maneuvers his barges over to the side of the channel. DSCF7729We pass by the electric fish barrier, which is designed to keep the Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes. We see a few dead fish floating downriver, so it’s working for some fish, anyway. We encounter oneDSCF7718 bridge which is dramaticly lower than all the others, which are typically 17 feet of clearance in the down position. I measured my mast tip in the reclined position before leaving home, and got just under 10 feet. This bridge looks really low, and I’ve lost track on where we are on the paper chart, so I don’t know the rated clearance for this railroad bridge. We ease up to it, not wanting to request an opening if it can be avoided. It looks really close, but I think we can clear. We make it, but with only about 10 inches to spare. I later learn that this is the ConRail bridge with a closed clearance of 10.5 feet. Around 3 in the afternoon we approach our second lock, the Lockport Lock. The lockmaster tells us to wait off to the side while he prepares to lift a barge heading north. We loiter for an hour, slowly circling in the hot, humid and rather still air, waiting to pass DSCF7721the lock. Shortly before the upstream barge gets raised, another pleasure craft, a large trawler, joins us in our wait. They’re having trouble receiving with their radio, so I tell the lockmaster they’re also waiting to lock downstream. Finally, the lock doors open and a 6 barge tow slowly leaves the chamber. We enter, and go all the way to the front of the chamber. There’s a bit of a breeze swirling inside, and we have trouble looping our line over the large, floating bollard in the side wall of the lock. Finally we get secured and begin our descent. I’m surprised at how far we descend. The Chicago lock only dropped 2 feet, but this one drops around 30 feet. Finally the lock doors swing open, the horn blasts, and we depart the lock. It’s only a short 3 mile run down to Joliet, our destination for the day. We tie up along the channel wall, adjacent to a city park. The 3 trawlers we passed Chicago lock with are here, and shortly after we’re joined by 2 other loop boats. We make quite a flotilla. We’re greeted by some local folks who’re hanging out along the river, where it’s a little cooler than further up into town. One offers me a cold beer, which I gladly accept, and we have a good time chatting. Later, while we’re getting our pizza dinner going on the barbque, 3local 8th grade kids stop by, full of questions about the boat. After dinner we visit briefly with our fellow cruisers, before heading out for an evening walk up into town.

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