Sept 1 to Sept 7

September 1-Michigan City, IN

We woke up, but laid in bed for awhile talking about our plans for the day. All of a sudden, we heard a bugle playing First Call, Reveille, and then Assembly. It was coming from the loudspeakers at the nearby Coast Guard Station. OK……time to get up. We had breakfast and worked on the blog. It’s already steamy outside with a predicted high again of 90 degrees for today and tomorrow. The sailors from the regatta were up early and on their way. The line of boats for the gas dock started forming early and was steady all morning. There was a stream of boats leaving the marina out for a day on the water.

We stayed out of the sun as best as we could. I held an umbrella over Bob to keep the sun off of him as he adjusted the other fender track on the starboard side of the boat. The cockpit was so hot you couldn’t go barefoot for fear of burning your feet. After lunch we took a walk over to the festival grounds to see a Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young tribute band. We stopped first to hear the Keith Scott Blues Band, who were excellent. We stayed there longer that we anticipated and then caught a little bit of the other band. They were pretty good too. It was cool enough sitting in the shade under the shelter listening to the music, but I wanted to go for a swim. So we took the dinghy out around the breakwater to the beach and anchored there. The water was fabulous and so cooling.

After awhile we picked up the anchor and drove past the beach where it was full of people on such a hot day. No surprise there!

We headed back to the boat and sat in the shade of the cockpit. I think we have the only slip in the marina that has shade.

Our boating neighbors on the other side of us (who are also visitors) have been here all weekend too. They have a small 24′ boat and jet ski. They spoke in a different language and Bob kept calling them the “Russians”, when in truth we found out they were Polish. Their boat name was Calineczka. I thought maybe it was their last name, but decided to check it out on the Internet. (It’s amazing what you can learn from the Internet). The name on the boat means “Thumbelina” and Bob asked them to verify it. They said it was, but we don’t know why they called it that. There were 2 young couples and 3 children (under age 7) sleeping, cooking, and eating on the boat. They had huge sausages and bread for breakfast and the men always had a beer before 10:00 in the morning. They stayed the entire weekend and left today. They were quite interesting to listen to and observe. After dinner Murphy, Bob, and I took a dinghy ride out to the breakwater to watch the sunset up close and maybe catch a glimpse of the Chicago skyline.

The sunset was spectacular again, but the skyline was clouded over by the pollution of Gary, Indiana.

When we got back to the boat, we put things away to get ready for our departure tomorrow. We’ll check the weather in the morning one last time, but the forecast looks good. We hope to move on to Hammond, IN. That will be our 15th port since we left on July 15. The adventure continues…………..

September 2 – Michigan City, IN to Burnham Harbor, Chicago, IL

It was a sunny, very humid day with winds out of the south at 5-10 mph. We ate breakfast and prepared to leave. We got a pumpout of the holding tank at the gas dock and pulled out of the marina about 9:45.

It was hazy along the horizon, but the waves were less than 1″ and we would have a smooth ride. We headed south and passed the Bethlehem Steel plant along the shoreline which was emitting black smoke and a noxious odor into the air. Next we passed Burns International Harbor where the casino gambling boat docks.

We cruised by the southernmost spot on Lake Michigan and then began moving north from there. There were still lots of beaches and wooded hillsides with sand dunes.

We could spot Gary, IN from a long distance away with its smokestacks, starting miles of industry along the shoreline.

There was an odor in the air and our eyes started to become affected by the fumes.

We passed by Hammond Marina. Our original plan was to spend the night there, but the weather forecast for tomorrow was calling for winds from the north at 15-25 mph creating waves of 3-5′, so we skipped it and continued on to Burnham Harbor.

We saw our first tug pushing some barges. It won’t be the last we’ll see on our river trip south.

We cruised past the breakwater to the Cal-Sag entrance where we will enter the river system later this week. That will be where we begin our trip down the river system.

We got our first glimpse of the Chicago skyline with Navy Pier off in the distance. We pointed the bow at the Sears Tower and continued to approach the city. The waves had increased to 1′, but it was still not an issue.

As we got closer to the city, we noticed 3 Chicago Police boats patrolling the harbor. One came near to take a closer look at us. Homeland Security in action, I guess. As we entered the breakwater, we noticed the Coast Guard was behind us, but they just looked us over and continued on.

We tied up in slip R 00 and were settled in by 11:45. The temp was 89 degrees with high humidity. (Tomorrow is supposed to be in the 70’s. Thank goodness!) We cooled off in the AC and had lunch before venturing out to the marina office to check in. We rode our bikes because the office is a long walk from our slip. On our way back we continued past our pier along the lakefront and McCormick Place to see where we were. We can see Soldier Field to the west of us. We are just off Lake Shore Drive along Museum Campus Dr. that is home to the Field Museum of Natural History, Adler Planetarium, and Shedd Aquarium. We were told to secure our electronics on the bridge for safety and lock the doors when we leave. I guess we’re in the big city now.

We washed the boat. It was really dirty with all the residue in the air from the factories in Michigan City and our trip on the lake today. We relaxed in the AC until dinnertime. It continued to be steamy and there was no breeze. Burnham Harbor has 1,120 slips, but very few boats were occupied during the day on our end of the harbor. Quite a few people were utilizing the bike trail just outside the marina fence even in the heat of the day. Later on, Bob grilled dinner on the boat.

The sun set between 2 skyscrapers in a fiery orange ball and night fell silently as the city came alive with lights.

The day finally cooled off to a balmy 82 degrees with a light breeze. It was a beautiful bugfree night as I sat in the cockpit enjoying the gentle movement of the boat in the slip. The plans for my brother, Randy, to arrive on Friday from Sacramento are all set. He will be doing the part of the river trip with us from Chicago to Paducah, KY. My sister, Peggy, is coming down from Milwaukee to spend a day with us on Friday as well. Anne, James, and our grandson, Kaya, will come to spend a day with us on Thursday. Tomorrow we’ll do some boat chores and look around the area a little by bike. It’s great to finally be here!

September 3-Burnham Harbor, Chicago

It was a cool, cloudy morning-the first one we’ve had in many weeks. I had breakfast and decided to reschedule my hair appt. for today, instead of Friday, at the salon that is within biking distance from the marina. It was recommended to me by my nephew’s wife who is also a hairdresser. I started my day with some chores-and as many women can relate to-I was multi-tasking. Now, Bob says my limit is usually 2 tasks at a time and I was pushing the limit at 3. I was doing the laundry, baking a coffee cake, and making some salsa. Well, things were going well until the coffee cake caught on fire. I first noticed the black smoke coming up through the burners in the stove and when I opened the oven door-FLAME ON! I yelled “FIRE” and Bob came running (well, not really) and we blew out the flames. The cake was torched on the top, but still edible. Not a total loss.

I finished most of the laundry, making my salsa, and got ready to ride my bike a few blocks to the hair salon. Bob was going to ride with me and go to the nearby hardware store for new materials to make a bike lock. (Glitch #6-We lost our bike lock yesterday.) As we rode our bikes along the bike trail, I commented that with the day I was having so far, I was taking a chance to get my hair done today. I might come home with a fried purple mohawk. Needless to say, we took the short ride and split up at the salon to meet back at the boat later. My salon experience was wonderful and I was back to the boat 2 1/2 hours later. (This is for Pam V.)

On the way back, I shot some pictures of the beautiful landmark buildings in the area: Shedd Aquarium,

Adler Planetarium,

Natural History Museum,

and Soldier Field.

I stopped to view Montrose, the other marina to the north of us and the skyline looking down Lakeshore Dr.

I biked to the opening of the harbor to the south to see what the lake was doing.

The boat had been moving a lot in the slip and the wind was creating swells in the marina. Bob had some time by himself to make the new bike lock and watch Jeopardy with the UW Madison college students competing. The day continued to be cool and cloudy-quite a switch from the sunny, hot days we’ve been having. The marina security police came down our dock to say that one of the boats farther down the dock might have gotten broken into last night. The Security presence here in the marina is very obvious. We sat inside when I got back and had a cocktail before dinner. After grilling dinner, we watched some TV and put the bikes away since the forecast is for 80% chance of rain and strong winds tomorrow. I guess Gustav has finally arrived. The boat continued to move around in the slip quite a bit and it was turning out to be a cool night. It would make for good sleeping! The lights in the city came on as darkness fell. It was a beautiful sight!

September 4- Burnham Harbor, Chicago, IL

It began raining last night and continued into the morning. We had breakfast and there was a slight break in the rain so we took a walk down the pier. It began to rain again and didn’t stop for the rest of the day. We waited for Anne, James, and Kaya to arrive. They got stuck in Milwaukee’s rush hour traffic and stopped at the grocery store to pick us up last minute items for us, so they didn’t get to the boat until 11:30. It continued to rain and the wind began to blow harder. We sat and visited for awhile and Kaya got a tour of the boat. He really liked the second stateroom when I said it would be his bedroom…although he would have to share it with Murphy. He said he didn’t mind.

He counted our coins and played with the “That was easy” button from Staples. It really made him laugh.

Later we took a ride to Navy Pier to have lunch at Bubba Gumps.

Kaya found a comfortable spot to lay on the window ledge.

After lunch, we walked around the shops and stopped for an ice cream. Kaya really got a kick out of the mirrors that distorted his body. Bob and James joined Kaya in a little dancing.

We even went up to the Crystal Gardens to look at the ferris wheel which was not in use today because of the rain. It was full of greenery and fountains.

We came back to the boat to hang out until after rush hour passed. We watched SpongeBob Square Pants with Kaya on DVD. I think everyone had a good time despite the rain. After the movie, they left around 6:00 in the pouring rain. It was sad to think that we wouldn’t be seeing them for awhile.

We relaxed for the rest of the evening…..and it continued to rain.

We had a recent request for some pictures of the inside of the boat, so here they are.

This is the salon (living room) looking toward the back of the boat.

This is the salon looking forward towards the bow of the boat.

This is the master stateroom and head (bathroom) on the lower level in the bow.

This is the second (guest) stateroom and head. The single beds can be converted into a queen.

This is the galley which is down on the lower level. It contains a full fridge and freezer, dishwasher, washer and dryer, microwave, 3 burner stove and oven, and trash compactor.

We’ve got all the comforts of home…..on the water.

September 5-Burnham Harbor, Chicago, IL

We woke to a cloudy day. It was a little cool until the clouds broke apart and the sun poked through. We had breakfast and began some chores to prepare for my sister, Peggy, and my brother, Randy to arrive. Bob did some river trip reading and instrument programming and I prepared the guest stateroom. We took a bike ride along the waterfront and into Millenium Park, stopping for lunch at a Chicago Hot Dog stand.

We found the bandshell and Buckingham Fountain, but were unable to take pictures because they were under repairs. Farther down the waterfront, we found that the ColumbusYacht Club had converted an old ship into the clubhouse for their yacht members. Pretty cool!

We rode all the way to the Chicago River and watched the tour boats moving up and down the river and through the locks.

Back at the boat we cleaned the bridge and the bridge enclosure windows and waited for Peggy to call to say she had arrived.

The call came at 2:30. She had taken the train from Milwaukee and a taxi to the marina. I went to meet her cab at the marina office and walk her back to the boat. We sat around and got caught up on things. We had beers and snacks before walking a mile to Knoll Pub and Grill to meet Jason, my nephew and Vanessa, his wife, for dinner. We stopped first to check out the sledding hill right outside the marina and take some pictures from the top.

We got to the pub a little early and had beers while we waited. They arrived around 8:00 and we ordered dinner.

We sat and talked until about 10:00 and then Jason and Vanessa gave us a ride back to the marina. Jason and Vanessa walked us back to the boat so they could check it out. This was the first time they had seen it. Peg stayed with the car outside the parking lot gate. After we said our goodbyes, they left. Peg went with them and spent the night at their house to make it easier for us to leave early in the morning. Bob and I went to bed after taking Murphy out for his walk. Later that night Jason, Vanessa, and Peggy dropped Randy off around 1 AM at the boat after picking him up at the airport. He called us to say he was sitting on the back of the boat and we let him in. He relaxed a little before going to bed. It had finally calmed off from the winds earlier in the day and we all slept well. Tomorrow was a big day!

September 6-Burnham Harbor, Chicago to Harborside Marina, Joliet, IL

It was a bright, sunny morning. The temps would be in the 70’s today. We all got up around 7:00 and did our morning routines. We had breakfast and pulled out of the slip by 8:30. We entered the breakwater of the Little Calumet River at 9:00 and passed a tug pushing a barge at the entrance.

Our first encounter with a bridge that needed to be opened, resulted in no response from the operator when we requested an opening, so we waited, tried numerous times to get a response, until finally we gave up and decided to go under it. Randy and Bob worked together to figure what to do next.

We were now in Little Calumet River and dead ahead of us was a ship, the John J. Bolland, from Wilmington, DE taking up most of the river.

We followed along for about 30 minutes at idle speed waiting for an opportunity to pass, but the river was too narrow. We called the ship on the radio and were told to wait until the next turn and then pass on the starboard side. So far we had traveled 11.8 miles in an hour and a half. We got back up to speed, but had to slow down at the bridges to make sure we could pass under them.

We passed all kinds of bridges from bascule bridges, to Interstate bridges, to RR bridges and we had to check the clearance on our charts for each one.

This bridge had a walking bridge between the two towers.

We reached our first lock, Thomas S. O’Brien lock and dam at 10:30.

We called ahead and found out we were the only boat locking through. The lockmaster said we could float in the middle if we wanted to, and we did. It was only a 2 foot drop so it was easy for our first locking experience. Three trawlers that we had passed out on the lake coming from Chicago had finally caught up with us (and they only travel at 7K). They locked in after us. That’s how much time we wasted behind that ship. Along the river there were small side basins that hold marinas which can handle boats from 40′ to 100′ in length. We were now on the Cal-Sag River. The Calumet River used to flow out into Lake Michigan with sewage from Chicago, but the river was reversed and locks were built to stop the flow out. A channel was built called the Cal (Calumet)-Sag (Sanitary/Agriculture) Channel. We passed a few small fishing boats and jet skiers, but there wasn’t much other river traffic. There were lots of birds along the shores –white egrets, herons, hawks, cormorants, geese, and ducks. We had lunch as we made our way down the narrow stretch of river banked with rock walls along the shore. This stretch can be very turbulent when boat wakes bounce off the shore and return. Soon we came upon the “defining bridge” of the trip-the Santa Fe Railroad Swing Bridge with 19′ of clearance and we needed at least 18′.

With the rain we had on Thursday, would we be able to pass under it? Did we measure our height correctly? Luckily, we had to hold up for awhile while 2 sets of barges passed each other and the tug gave us the OK to pass. That gave us some time to really eye up the bridge clearance. We went very slowly and carefully with Randy sticking his head out of the sunroof in the bridge to see if we had enough clearance.

We just made it! Now we were free and clear with the other bridges. Next, we came upon an area that is set aside for barges to repair and moor along a wall designated as the “Chemical Slip”-Main Wharf and Barge Mooring Area.

Many tugs and barges were lining up here waiting to maneuver to different places. It was a very tight squeeze with tugs and barges moving every which way.

We were very nervous about passing the tugs along the stone wall and had to get directions from each tug captain as to where to pass and when to pass safely. The turbulence from the props created some tense moments and white knuckle situations as we passed.

We passed under an aerial pipeline for refineries in the area that created an arch over the river.

Our next lock was the Lockport Lock and Dam with a 40′ drop. This was the first time we would use the bollard system in the locks. We called ahead and we would be locking through with 7 other boats. We would have to tie up (raft off) of another boat so that we could all get in and use the bollards.

We were rafted off a boat, the Miss Darling, finishing up the Great Loop in Tennessee and we got to hear about some of their experiences as we waited for the water to drop. Once the doors opened, we pushed off and were on our way again.

The next lock was open and we would be locking through with the same boats. We passed through Joliet, IL which had a nice wall that you could tie up to for free and spend the night, but we needed to move on. It was still too early in the day to stop. Three of the boats tied up there and stayed. Four of us continued on. The next lock was on the Des Plains River called the Brandon Road Lock and Dam with a drop of 34′. Here we would get to use our “happy hooker” for the first time with the bollard system in the lock.

It worked really well and each of us worked a line or a pole to keep us away from the wall.

It would be only 13 miles to the Harborside Marina where we would stop for the night. We had called ahead and they were giving us the spot against the gas dock. We finally got to travel at our cruising speed of 24 knots and were there in no time. We arrived at around 5:00 and were tied up shortly.

We helped 2 of the other boats from the lock come in behind us. They were spending the night here as well. The other boat was going to keep moving and go as far as they could go today before dark. We had some cocktails and showered before dinner. (They had a really interesting shower. )

Bob was really exhausted from all the driving and navigating he had to do today. Randy was tired from his early morning flight and helping Bob navigate. I was just tired from a long day. We grilled dinner and called it an early evening. As we ate dinner, a huge tug came by pushing some barges upstream. It seems they work 24/7. Not us, we are done for the day. We traveled a total of 58 miles today. Not the 100 miles we were hoping for, but it was the best we could do under the circumstances. Tomorrow’s another day!

September 7-Harborside Marina, Joliet, IL to Illinois Valley Yacht Club (IVY), Peoria, IL

We woke at 7 AM and had breakfast. Bob called ahead to the lock to see if it was vacant. The lockmaster said to come right away and since we were docked right around the corner from the lock, we threw off the lines and we were away from the dock in the fastest time ever. We got to the Dresden Lock at 8:05 and it took us 15 minutes to get through. It had a 20′ drop and we were the only ones in it.

Everything went smoothly. We were getting really good at this. After locking through we passed the the junction of the Des Plaines River and the Kankakee River forming the Illinois River.

We were able to drive on plane at 23 knots (28 mph) for quite awhile before arriving at the City of Morris.

Morris is known for having the first canal built to connect Lake Michigan with the inland water system. They dug this canal by hand for 96 miles and it enters the Illinois River at Morris. We saw a campground on both sides of the river as we approached the town of Seneca with 2 marinas.

We noticed more agriculture areas and farms. The Marseilles Dam has a dangerous, restricted area before the lock. The Marseilles Lock and Dam let us lock in and we were alone. It had a drop of 26′.

We passed through Ottawa, IL and had to reduce our speed to idle to kill some time because of barges locking through. Once we got close, we floated near the entrance of the lock. Total time wasted= 1 1/2 hours.

Once the tug was clear of the lock, we started to move in but the starboard motor wouldn’t start. Bob went down in the engine room and before you know it, the engine was running again. Bob decided not to shut of the starboard motor for the rest of the day. We approached Starved Rock Lock and Dam with 2 other smaller boats. The drop was 17′.

We continued at cruising speed, slowing down for barges near Peru, IL.

This part of the river reminds me of the Mississippi River with rolling hillsides and tall rocky cliffs near the lock.

After Hennepin we stopped at Henry Marina for fuel and a pumpout.

The gas dock was located in an old abandoned lock. We were there for about an hour. We saw these guys tooling by in their bass boats carrying large leafy branches. We figured they were used to make duck blinds which we saw many of along the way.

After the city of Lecon, we entered the Peoria Lake area which included the town of Chillicothe and Hamm’s Holiday Harbor. We had seen no “loopers” at all today. Tonight we would be spending the night at the Illinois Valley Yacht Club or as it is well known, the IVY Club.

We arrived at 5:00 and were sipping cocktails by 5:20. Our trip today was 106 miles.

We showered and stopped for a cocktail at the Yacht Club to mingle with the locals. Back at the boat we had dinner and watched a movie until we couldn’t keep our eyes open any more. The sunset was beautiful!

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