July 1, 2013
When The Water Calls ... We Follow


June 20, 2013
New Adventures


May 31, 2013
Storing Our Shiny Red Tug


May 13, 2013
Viva La Difference


May 6, 2013
Swinging Free & Easy


April 15, 2013
In The Middle


March 29, 2013
On The Hook


March 18, 2013
Tinker Time


February 28, 2013
Jumping Into the Mix


February 15, 2013
Time Travel


February 6, 2013
Charlevoix - A Small Town With A World-Class Reputation


January 15, 2013
The Perfect Ending


January 1, 2013
Magical Weather & Mysterious Ports


December 15, 2012
Collins Inlet, Killarney, & Little Current


December 1, 2012
New Neighbors


November 16, 2012
What Makes a Perfect Anchorage?


November 1, 2012
Are We There Yet?


October 15, 2012
CHANGE OF LATITUDE


October 1, 2012
Womens Roundtable


September 15, 2012
Freedom to Discover a Southern Gem


September 1, 2012
Promises


August 15, 2012
Nice to Have Options


August 1, 2012
Go West!


July 15, 2012
The Perfect Boating Vacation Destination


July 1, 2012
Propane


June 15, 2012
Flagler’s Folly


June 1, 2012
Everglades Detour


May 15, 2012
Making New Friends


May 1, 2012
Something Old and Something New


April 15, 2012
Florida’s Wide Open West Coast


April 1, 2012
Life On the Water in a Trailerable Trawler


March 15, 2012
Becoming Second Nature


March 1, 2012
Last Dance


February 15, 2012
Call it Romance or Mystique


February 1, 2012
Natural Wonders Abound


January 15, 2012
Hardly a Care in the World


January 1, 2012
Wide-Eyed Anticipation


December 15, 2011
Winding Our Way to Lake Powell


December 1, 2011
On to New Cruising Grounds


November 15, 2011
Sharing the Love


November 1, 2011
On the Water Again


October 14, 2011
First Impressions


October 3, 2011
Possession is Nine-Tenths of the Fun


September 15, 2011
Getting the Show on the Road


September 1, 2011
Lets Dance!


August 15, 2011
Getting Our Ducks in a Row


August 1, 2011
Summer Without a Boat


July 15, 2011
The Water and The Boater Home


July 1, 2011
One Step Closer


June 15, 2011
Time Keeps on slippin’ Into the Future


June 1, 2011
Made in the USA


May 15, 2011
Making the Right Truck Choice


May 1, 2011
Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder


April 15, 2011
What Goes Around Comes Around


April 1, 2011
Wishing Star Interlude


March 15, 2011
Helping Hands


March 1, 2011
THE PERFECT BOAT!


February 15, 2011
Weighing the Options


February 1, 2011
Making a List, Checking it Twice!


January 14, 2011
The Science of Towing


December 30, 2010
The Upside of Downsizing


December 15, 2010
The New Plan!


December 1, 2010
Homeward Bound-The Final Leg


November 15, 2010
Somethings In The Water


November 1, 2010
Our Turn to Relax & Smile


October 15, 2010
Gem in the Rough


October 1, 2010
Whats Your Favorite Place on the Loop?


September 15, 2010
Reflecting Pool


September 1, 2010
Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder


August 15, 2010
Canadian Wonderland


August 1, 2010
"Low Bridge, Everybody Down"


July 15, 2010
One Day At A Time


July 1, 2010
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!


June 15, 2010
Lets All Do the Rendezvous


June 1, 2010
On the Hard


May 15, 2010
Falling in Love With Key West


May 1, 2010
Helping Women Get On Board


April 15, 2010
Key West - A Repeat Performance


April 1, 2010
Unexpected Pleasures


March 15, 2010
Mom Cruise


March 1, 2010
Okeechobee Bound


February 15, 2010
Chance Encounters


February 1, 2010
Three Nights in Paradise


January 15, 2010
New Frontiers


January 1, 2010
First Time Experiences


December 15, 2009
A Friend In Every Port


December 1, 2009
Dealing With A Temperamental Lady


November 18, 2009
You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello


November 13, 2009
A Cult Following


October 15, 2009
Somewhere in Time


October 1, 2009
Unlocking Our Minds Eye


September 18, 2009
Its In My Nature


August 15, 2009
The RBS Antidote


August 1, 2009
Crab Crazy


July 15, 2009
Sights And Sounds Of The Bay


July 15, 2009
Sights And Sounds Of The Bay


June 15, 2009
Our Last Leg North


June 1, 2009
Northern Migration


May 15, 2009
Priceless


May 1, 2009
Hello Goodbye


April 15, 2009
Let The Sun Shine In!


April 1, 2009
Dont Worry, Be Happy


March 15, 2009
Bahama Bound


March 1, 2009
What Do You Do All Day?


February 15, 2009
Slow Motion


February 1, 2009
On The Hook With A Million-Dollar View


January 15, 2009
High Anxiety


January 1, 2009
A String Of One-Night Stands


December 15, 2008
Pushing Into New Tennessee River, Upstream To Adventure


December 1, 2008
All Together Now


November 15, 2008
Kismet in the Aftermath of Hurricane Ike


October 31, 2008
Our Love Affair With The River


October 16, 2008
Big City Lights


October 1, 2008
The Adventure Begins


September 15, 2008
Prepping For The Loop


September 1, 2008
The Space Ship


August 15, 2008
Jumping Aboard In Seattle


August 1, 2008
If We Knew Then What We Know Now!


July 10, 2008
The Second Time Around


July 1, 2008
Our Turn For The Great American Loop

   

Big City Lights
By Kismet, Thursday, October 16, 2008

The expanse of the open waters, without the sight of land, can be intimidating -- even more so in Lake Michigan. Mariners often describe the waves as short, choppy, and frequent. Boaters who have ocean experience will tell you that they prefer the ocean. It’s for this reason that first-time visitors to Lake Michigan are anxious about crossing the big lake. It’s also for this reason that caution should always be taken when doing so.

Lisa and I were excited about the weather window we chose to make our journey from the east shore of Michigan to the windy city of Chicago. We had a 12-hour day scheduled and calm waters of one-foot or less were predicted. Our trip west to Chicago was one every boater hopes for and often will get if you’re patient enough. Luckily, our timing was exceptional.

Jim enjoys the nighttime Chicago skyline from the vantage point of Kismet’s anchorage just behind Navy Pier

A short time after we lost sight of the Michigan coast we started to make out the skyline of Chicago, about 45 miles out. At first we could only see the dark shapes of the Sears Tower and John Hancock Center buildings as we motored at eight knots in calm waters towards the shores of Chicago. It seemed as if the city was being built before our eyes. The closer we came the more picturesque the metropolis became and the more detail we were able to make out in the skyline of America’s third largest city.

As we entered the harbor we made our way to the north side of Navy Pier where there’s a designated anchorage area. We set our hook 600 feet from Lake Shore Drive with the backdrop of the Chicago skyline directly at our stern. We had a glass of wine to celebrate our crossing as we settled in to watch the sun set against the iconic Chicago landscape.

It’s a relaxing, and I’d have to say peaceful, feeling to be able to sit on the back of one’s boat watching the rhythm of the commuter traffic working their way out of the city. Along with the stream of headlights were all the joggers, bikers, and walkers working their way up and down the Lake Shore Drive pedestrian path. It was as if we had our own private viewing room of the city.

After pulling up our anchor we found the reason we moved during the night, -- massive amounts of seaweed and muck.

Before we retired for the night (I know, this makes me sound really old!) I set the anchor alarm on our GPS. At 1:30 in the morning I was awakened to it’s warning that the boat had moved more than the 120 feet for which I’d set the alarm. The wind had picked up a bit and it was coming out the south; sure enough we’d moved, parallel to shore. After the anchor reset and I adjusted the anchor alarm I decided to remain in the pilothouse to sleep, just in case. I fell back asleep until the alarm woke me up again, this time from a nightmare that our boat was crashing into the Chicago break wall. It was just a dream. However the startle of the alarm indicated that our anchor had dragged again past its set point. This went on every hour or so until daybreak, when I calculated that we had moved a total of 539 feet during the night. We were never in danger as we were moving with the shore and not towards it, but nonetheless I got little sleep on our first night in Chicago.

After a short lumpy ride from the anchorage we settled into DuSable Harbor Marina, situated at the doorstep of downtown Chicago, a short walk from the Museums, shopping, parks, and restaurants. We planned to spend three days exploring Chicago before we entered into the Chicago River that would lead us south.

We like to walk to get exercise when we travel and Chicago was no exception. Lisa is standing on the Michigan Avenue bridge.

Chicago is such a vibrant city with many festivals, events, museums, and sights to see that it’s difficult to decide what to do first. Nonetheless we prevailed by window-shopping on Michigan Avenue, and walking through parts of Grant and Millennium Parks. Both parks sit between Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive, making it both people friendly for Chicagoans, and a very short walk from the marina for us. The gardens, sculptures, walkways, bike paths, and trees are an added bonus to what makes Chicago so appealing. We also found Rosebud’s, a great Italian restaurant, where Lisa and I celebrated our anniversary early with a late afternoon dinner.

Chicago is where Looper’s exit the Great Lakes, either through downtown Chicago on the Chicago River, or through the Calumet River and Sag Channel 10 miles south of the city. If your boat can clear 17 feet, you have either river option, however in all cases you have to get below 19’ 1”. Our Kismet, when the mast is lowered, gets down to 15’ 9” so we decided to take the scenic downtown Chicago route (more on that in a future log).


Lisa and I spent our anniversary day shopping, dodging rain, going to Zanies Comedy Club, and having an early dinner at Rosebud’s Italian restaurant.

Between DuSable Marina, Burnham Harbor Marina, Monroe Harbor, and the Chicago Yacht Club, there were about eight Loopers who’d gathered in Chicago, all planning to spend some time in the big city before moving into the river system. As I mentioned, we’d only planned to stay three days in Chicago. However the remnants of Hurricane Ike had worked their way up to the Great Lakes area, dumping 10 to 12 inches of rain. Because of the rain, the rivers started rising to flood-stage levels, which in turn caused the locks to close down. We wanted to be underway, but were thankful that we weren’t in harms way somewhere on the flooding rivers.

We ate well while in Chicago.

Shortly after all the rain came, we began hearing about the rising waters from Chicago all the way south of St. Louis, on the Mississippi River. By our third day in Chicago I started each day by checking the weather conditions, water levels, flood stages, and lock closures. Each day we were disappointed when we’d learn that the water was still rising, even after two days of no rain. Because there were record amounts of rain in such a short period of time, some 50-year-old flood-level records were breached. This was no time to be moving into the river system, even if the locks had opened.

Our extra Chicago time was put to good use by getting to know some of our fellow Loopers. The interesting aspect of this type of travel is that you get to meet boaters from all over the country and all walks of life -- the common thread being their love of boating and adventure. The group who was gathered in Chicago, the same time as Kismet, included couples from Michigan, Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, Florida, and Connecticut. The first group of Loopers we met was traveling in a variety of boats, sizes, and brands. Most were some configuration of a trawler.


Lisa has a soft spot for farmers markets so we embarked on a nice long walk to find these tomatoes at a small inter-city farmer’s co-op.
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The group included a Tartan sailboat, an Ocean Alexander, two Californians, a Tollycraft, a Med Yacht, a Legacy, a Meridian, and our Fathom. Most in the first group we met are retired but some are engaged in working from their boat. Meeting new people, getting to know them and traveling with them is one the ancillary benefits of doing the Great Loop. If our last Loop trip is any indication some of these folks will become good friends as the trip unfolds.

Lisa mentioned in our last log, because we’ve done the Great Loop before, that we expected that the thrill of the unknown would be somewhat taken away during our second Loop. The excitement of seeing and experiencing something for the very first time can never be duplicated, and this is why we’ll be venturing into areas to which we didn’t travel or visit during our last Loop. Now, two weeks into our voyage, we find ourselves docked in a city we’ve been to before, but docked in a different marina.


Lisa and Jim entering the Chicago Lock.
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Now, here we are, stranded in a familiar city by the near-record-breaking river levels and closed locks. This is a new experience, one we’ll learn from and use to make us better boaters. We’re so fortunate not to have been in harms way during the bad part of the storm. So easily, we could’ve been farther south by now, and at great risk during the hurricane that hit Galveston.

After six days in Chicago we have good news. The waters have receded enough to open the Chicago lock so that we, and the other Loopers who are waiting, can set out and resume our travels.