SE Lake Michigan & The Windy City

The Musical Fountain show on our last evening in Grand Haven did not disappoint, with different songs played than the previous night. I’m glad we got to see the beautiful ever-changing lighted fountains a second time.

Playing Chess on Sidewalk Table

Playing Chess on Sidewalk Table

We got going fairly early on Wed, August 6th. Again, we encountered patches of fog, but it was another perfect cruising day with light winds. The only complaint I had was being inundated by biting flies. I don’t understand where they come from, suddenly honing in on our dirty old boat when we’re five miles offshore! But the fly swatter got a good workout.

We had difficulty getting a slip in South Haven, as the town was gearing up for the National Blueberry Festival. We ended up in the south Municipal Marina – a great location for its proximity to town. We wandered through some shops, got ice cream cones and played a game of chess on a sidewalk table. Jim got a much-needed new pair of shorts and a cap that says, “Great Lakes, Unsalted”.

Pirate Ship Mast in South Haven, MI

Pirate Ship Mast in South Haven, MI

Back at the marina I did a couple of loads of laundry and we took real showers. We chatted with a few of the neighboring boat owners, planned our next day’s jaunt, and watched “The Immigrant” on Netflix.

Late Thursday morning we pulled out of our slip and motored further up the river to a fuel dock, where we filled up. It was expensive, but we try to keep the tanks above half full so as not to clog up the filters with the crud in the bottom of the tanks. From there we went out through the inlet and back into Lake Michigan.

Freighter Came In Across River From Our Spot on Wall in St. Joe

Freighter Came In Across River From Our Spot on Wall in St. Joe

It was our best cruising day yet on the big waters of Lake Michigan. Many fishing boats were out, the sun was shining, and the waves only 1 to 2 feet. We entered the inlet at the St. Joseph River, and made our way to a spot along a wall in St. Joe. The price was right (free), and even included power (hydro as they call it in Canada). A park with interesting sculptures bordered the wall. After getting secured, we walked into town.

On the Wall in St. Joe

On the Wall in St. Joe

I can’t say enough about the cute towns all along the eastern side of Lake Michigan. The entrance inlets are so similar with their sandy beaches and lighthouses at the end of the breakwaters, I tend to get them mixed up. The towns are also similar with little specialty shops, decked out in beautiful flowers, inviting green spaces, and friendly people.

South Haven - Busy Spot in Prep for the Nat'l Blueberry Festival

South Haven – Busy Spot in Prep for the Nat’l Blueberry Festival

We stayed along the wall in St. Joe the following day. About noon we watched a freighter come in through the narrow opening of the RR swing bridge, and pulled up across from us at the cement silos across the river in Benton. Warren, a guy from Wolf’s Marine picked us up and brought us to the expansive warehouse where we purchased a pedestal and seat for the lower helm, marine TP, a new American flag, a bailer for the dinghy, and flares to replace our expired ones.


St. Joe – On the Free Wall Bordering the Park with Free Power

Later we walked back into town where we got fresh bread and cookies from the local bakery. From there we went to a great Chinese place for dinner. Back at the boat we played backgammon, watched passing boats, and prepped for the next day’s cruise.

On Saturday, August 9th the freighter across the river woke us up about 4:00 a.m., as it noisily left port and backed its way through the swing bridge and out to Lake Michigan. We left the wall about 8:30 a.m., leaving  St. Joe and headed through the SE portion of the lake where we left the state of Michigan behind, and entered the waters of the state of Indiana. The lake was a little lumpy, and steering was difficult with the following seas.

Michigan City, IN Beach at Sunset

Michigan City, IN Beach at Sunset

We made it to the Washington Park Municipal Marina in Michigan City, Indiana, where we pulled into the fuel dock to top off our tanks and got a pump-out. The marina is huge – we were assigned slip 7086, and it was a long walk to shore. Pairs of docks share a brick bathhouse and gazebo. The 800 dock was having their annual party, so the common areas were decorated for the event with red solo cups.

Meeting Up With Calvin & Kristin - Yah!

Meeting Up With Calvin & Kristin – Yah!

An in-water boat show was going on next to the marina, so we meandered around and checked out the many beautiful new boats. Back on our boat we looked at the winds and weather for the following day and decided it would be wise to sit tight for another day. So we walked all the way around the marina to the fuel dock where we had to re-register and pay.

Michigan City Inlet

Michigan City Inlet

On the way back we stopped off at the beach where we enjoyed the sunset and the rise of the almost full ‘super-moon’. We stuck our toes in the chilly Lake Michigan water, watched the wind-driven waves crash on the shore, and people-watched. Back in the marina the 800 dock party was in full swing. We were heartily welcomed to join in the fun, so we danced to Jim’s request of “I’m a Goin’ Fishing” by Taj Mahal, and sampled 151 rum-soaked cherries.

The party went on well into the night, the DJ turning the music into Karaoke. Luckily, our slip was a long distance away, down the 700 dock, and the noise did not carry well in the windy night. We slept like babies.

Panoramic View of the Beach at Michigan City, IN

Panoramic View of the Beach at Michigan City, IN

Knowing that we were spending the whole next day, we had a leisurely breakfast. I did dishes and Jim worked on bills and asset management. We took ‘real’ showers in the marina facilities. After Googling grocery stores nearby, we headed out on foot pulling our carts and bags. It was a long walk, but finally we got to the address that Google had provided, only to find out it was the corporate headquarters for Al’s Grocery, not the store itself! That hadn’t worked out so well, but we got our exercise and had enough on hand. We certainly wouldn’t starve!

RR Bridge from Wall in St. Joe, MI

RR Bridge from Wall in St. Joe, MI

About 5:20 that evening we got the call we were waiting for. Our son Calvin and wife Kristin made it to the marina. We walked to meet them in the parking lot – it was so good to see their smiling faces! We had dinner together at a little place next to the marina, then walked to the beach and back to the boat. They were on their way back from motorcycle races in Indy, and I’m so glad that we were able to cross paths and reconnect.

View of Chicago Skyline from Lower Helm

View of Chicago Skyline from Lower Helm – A Rocky Crossing

On Monday the 11th we woke to pouring rain and winds. We checked all our weather and wind apps, and it didn’t look too promising for crossing the southern end of the lake to Chicago. We decided it would be wise to stay, but after looking at the following days’ weather we changed our minds, and quickly set out. A nearby sailboat owner agreed that it was now or wait for 2 more days.

Cruising Into Chicago

Cruising Into Chicago

The winds came out of the west at our starboard side, making for an uncomfortable rocky 4-1/2 hour cruise. When the faint skyline of Chicago came into view through the clouds, our spirits lifted. I just kept steering for the Sear’s tower, knowing that as it grew in size and clarity we were getting closer and closer.

Chicago River

Chicago River

With our reservations made at the North Monroe Harbor, we had mooring ball NB07 assigned, and had scoped out its location on-line. We made our way in behind the breakwater, and got secured to the ball. A short distance away we spotted ‘Cat Call’, the only other loopers we saw while in Chicago.

View from the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel

View from the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel

What a magnificent city! We climbed aboard the tender boat for a ride to shore, and headed out on foot to Navy Pier, crossing the Chicago River and enjoyed the sights along the way. We ate at Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville”, then took a ride on the Ferris wheel. From there we ended up in Millennium Park at a free rock concert by some Russian band (not my taste in music), then found our way amid intermittent rain showers to a grocery store occupying the two lower floors of a skyscraper.

Mooring Field at Monroe Harbor - Chicago

Mooring Field at Monroe Harbor – Chicago

Lugging our purchases back to the marina, we were pooped out, and welcomed the tender ride back to the boat, where we stowed our purchases and took off our walking shoes. The Chicago skyline lit up around us as night came on, and we caught glimpses of the ‘super moon’ through the clouds.

Chicago Art Display - Millennium Park - Faces Blinked and Changed - Very Freaky

Chicago Art Display – Millennium Park – Faces Blinked and Changed – Very Freaky

We woke in the middle of the night to a hard downpour, but fell back asleep rocking in the waves of the mooring field. After a hearty breakfast, we again called for a tender ride so we could explore more of the city. We walked and walked, first seeing the grounds around the Art Institute, then to the other side of Millennium Park and the famous ‘Bean’ sculpture with its reflective stainless steel surfaces. From there we walked the Magnificent Mile of Michigan Avenue. We ate a late lunch of Chicago deep dish pizza at the original Uno’s, found a Trader Joe’s where we picked up a few items, and stopped in an old landmark steakhouse for a drink at the bar.

View from Chicago Art Institute Grounds

View from Chicago Art Institute Grounds

The suicide of Robin Williams was all over the TV, as he was a native of Chicago. His talent and humor will surely be missed, but I’m glad he left a legacy in the movies he did, both his comedy and serious roles.

We walked a little out of our way, but because of that got to see close-up the Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park. On sore feet we trudged back to the marina, once more taking the tender boat back to our boat. The night skyline of Chicago is incredible and awe-inspiring.

'The Bean' from a Distance

‘The Bean’ from a Distance

I think the architecture and green of the city is more spectacular than that of New York. I never got tired of seeing its buildings lit up at night reflected in the waters of the mooring field and Lake Michigan.

Inside 'The Bean'

Inside ‘The Bean’

The 13th of August was quite a day! We left the mooring field and locked through the Chicago Lock into the Chicago River. We motored slowly through downtown, navigating between the many water taxis and tour boats. We waited for two trains to pass overhead before a RR bridge could be opened. After the short Chicago River we entered the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal. It was narrow, very industrial, stinky, and crowded with moored barges, and others coming and going.

Buckingham Fountain - Chicago

Buckingham Fountain – Chicago

At one point we had to pull over and tie to an empty barge in a little inlet to wait for the passage of 3 separate tows pushing barges and taking up the entire width of the canal. Once in the clear we encountered 2 tugs sidewise in the channel, their engines running and creating quite a back wash; one almost spinning us around. Immediately after, we hit a large submerged log, with no apparent damage. It made for a tense day of cruising.

Warning Signs Along the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal

Warning Signs Along the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal

After the section with all the barges, we came to signs posted along the waterway, warning us of submerged electrical fish barriers, put in place to stun or kill the flying Asian Carp to keep them out of the waters of the Great Lakes.

The Lockport lock was our next challenge, where we entered and tied to an empty barge container being pushed by the tug ‘Eileen C’. One of their barge hands came and tied us securely alongside, as the empty was too high for us to reach.

Is it possible to really fit through this?

Is it possible to really fit through this?

Soon after the lock the Canal ended and joined the waters of the Des Plaines River.  We cruised to the town of Joliet where we tied to another free wall with power, this time adjoining Bicentennial Park. We chilled out on the back deck, watching the 12-pack barges make their way through the opened bridges, surprisingly able to navigate through the narrow openings. Whew! What a challenging day! Only two locks, but 61 bridges, and many barges to contend with. Glad that stretch is behind us!

Locking Through With Barge - Des Plaines River

Locking Through With Barge – Des Plaines River

We are now at the beginning of the Illinois River, and are appreciating its more familiar and rural setting. We are currently in the town of Seneca, IL at a great little marina with a fun Tiki Bar and restaurant called ‘The Boondocks’. Only 253 miles of our trip remain before we cross our wake in Grafton, IL where the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers converge.

Until next time, ARiverDerci!


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2 Responses to SE Lake Michigan & The Windy City

  1. Steven says:

    WOW! Chicago….that is a long way from MN….Oh…by going around Florida!!!

  2. Mz Vic says:

    Finally got a minute to read you new post. It just doesn’t seem right without a glass of wine next to me. Cheers! I wish you would have given us a call. You were so close & we would have driven over yesterday to meet you somewhere. You were only about 2 hrs away. Where are you now? We had Harold’s “2nd” retirement party Sat night down at Lakeview in the clubhouse. It was a blast but a good thing we had it there because it rained all day. We had a band & lots of friends showed up & a good time was had by all. Harold says he is now starting to feel retired. I love having him home everyday when I come home from work. I am so enjoying all of your posts. Keep the good times rolling and stay safe. Love ya!

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