August 22-27, 2012
Before leaving South Haven, we checked and rechecked every one of our weather and wind forecast sources, and determined that Wednesday would be the best day for the next few days to cross Lake Michigan. We arranged for an early morning fueling and set out across the lake – 75 miles from South Haven to Chicago. The first third of the trip was fine, with 1-2 foot waves. But the waves built as we continued and eventually we were dealing with 4-footers. Not fun, but not the worst we’ve experienced either. As always, the boat handled it fine. For at least two hours we were out of sight of land, saw no other boats and had no cell phone service. That was a little creepy. Also boring. We decided it was good practice for crossing the Gulf of Mexico later this fall.
We started seeing the skyscrapers of Chicago while we were still a long way from shore. Unlike both times we approached New York, when there was always land visible on both sides of the skyline, Chicago seems to rise right out of the lake. Craig said it looked like the Lost City of Atlantis.
Craig and I were both born and raised in Chicago and have seen the skyline many, many times from a variety of different angles. But just like coming into New York harbor, it’s a special thrill to arrive on your own boat and see the city spread out in front of you. As we came into the harbor, we passed Navy Pier and Buckingham Fountain and cruised through the many sailboats in Monroe Street Harbor. Gosh, the water is so beautiful!
We had reservations at the DuSable harbor, right at the base of Randolph Street. It’s a perfect location to walk to the many great sights on the lakefront, downtown and Michigan Avenue. It is right below Lake Point Tower, where my dad lived for many years, and is an easy walk to Navy Pier.
We were very pleased to see that they had assigned us to the number 2 slip on the dock right outside the marina office – very convenient for walking the dogs and watching all the people who walk and ride bikes (and Segways!) along the lakefront all day, everyday.
There was also a little outdoor bistro right next to our dock and our first evening in town they had a jazz duo who performed all evening until 9:00, when a terrific fireworks show started right outside the harbor. We ate on board that night and enjoyed the best seats in the city for listening to good music and watching the fireworks.
Our first two days in the city we took advantage of our location by walking south to Buckingham Fountain and riding our bikes north along the lake to Lincoln Park and the zoo.
On Friday daughter Karen flew into town from Oklahoma. She took a train from O’Hare and we met her downtown. We had lunch at an outdoor restaurant along the river before returning to the boat. We saw LOTS of excursion boats traveling up and down the river – architectural tours as well as regular sightseeing.
We thought this shooting fountain was neat, but hoped it wouldn’t soak us when we pass by on our way out of town in a few days. But somehow it magically stops each time a boat approaches.
After lunch, we walked to Millennium Park to see the famous “Bean.” It’s a fascinating, constantly changing work of public art.
We also walked to one of our favorite Chicago destinations, the Art Institute, and bought Frango Mints at the original State Street Marshall Field’s (okay, technically it’s Macy’s now, but at least the building retains its “real” name!)
Later, one of Karen’s good friends from college, Craig Adams, met us at the boat for a glass of wine. We were joined by Don and Jan Biciste, close friends from our college days. It was great to see them. Always dependable foodies, Don and Jan had made reservations at a restaurant called Trattoria 10, where we enjoyed a great meal and a lot of laughs with old friends.
The next day my family arrived: brothers Tom and Scott, sister-in-law Chris and nephew Brian. Chris’ Uncle Al, who has been a faithful follower of our trip, also came down. We spent a fun day on the boat.
Brian really likes our dogs and the feeling is mutual!
Scott, Tom and Uncle Al helped Craig lower our radar mast so we can get under the several low bridges coming up in Chicago and the Illinois Waterway.
Later in the afternoon, we all drove out to my mom’s place in the suburbs. Tom’s daughter Katie joined us, too. We had a really fun evening with more of us together than we have managed in some time.
Pizza from Little Villa is a tradition at Grandma’s!
Mom and her kids and Bailey the photo hound!
Craig, Karen and I (and the dogs) stayed overnight at my mom’s. For Craig and me, it was our first night off the boat in almost five months.
On Sunday afternoon, we dropped Karen at the airport and returned to the marina in the rain. It would continue to pour all night long, dumping some much needed rain into the river system.
That night we were honored to be invited to join Marc and Michele and her sister and brother-in-law, Cheryl and Larry, to celebrate their joint wedding anniversary. The two couples were married in a double wedding 40 years ago. We went out for a really good dinner, and Marc especially loved his huge piece of carrot cake!
Marc’s Ark left the next morning, but we stayed another day, waiting for a FedEx delivery of a new antenna for our AIS system. The AIS allows us to “see” other boats on our GPS and radar by name, and allows them to “see” us by name as well. Very handy thing to have on the rivers for barge-spotting, and ours hadn’t been working quite right. So we had another day in port to get various projects done, including taking down our bimini top to allow us to take the scenic route through downtown Chicago with its many low bridges.
That night we enjoyed one last dinner onboard, taking in the beautiful night skyline. After dinner we walked to Buckingham Fountain for the 25-minute light and music show. I remember loving the lighted fountain when I was a young kid (no music then), and it’s still impressive after all these years.
It was a cloudless night that promised a good start in the morning for our trip down the rivers. We were anxious to get moving again, but we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Chicago, seeing family and friends and reconnecting with this beautiful city.
Next, leaving Chicago and entering the Illinois Waterway.
(Real time update: On September 16, we are STILL enjoying Green Turtle Bay on Lake Barkley, KY!)