The marking of the end of our Great Lakes portion of the great loop was marked yesterday (9/7/17) with the unstepping of our mast in Crowley’s boat yard. It also marked the beginning of our river portion of the trip and we got a small taste of some of the challenges we will
face when we went to Crowley’s; bridges, barges and traffic.
Start: Waukegan, IL
End: Chicago IL, DuSable Harbor
Total Distance: 31.91
Average Speed: 5.87
But I get ahead of myself. When last we left you, we were sitting in Waukegan, Illinois. Our inverter/charger got a new fan and we made our day into a work day; laundry, cleaning of boat, battery maintenance, etc. Weather for Wednesday was for northwest wind 10-15 knots, waves 2 feet following–good enough to get us the 30ism miles to Chicago. We had talked to DuSable Marina about our maintenance problem and they adjusted our reservation one day, arrive on Wed, leave on Wed. And we knew that the T-head for our dock was open. So we set our alarms for 0545 and by 7am we were pushing off the dock.
Based on the forecast and our trip from Milwaukee, we were expecting to sail down to Chicago, so when we got out of the marina, we quickly put up the mainsail, threw out the genoa and turned to Chicago. Then noticed three things. First was that the northwest wind was more north and was about directly behind us. And two, the two foot waves that were forecasted were something bigger and instead of following, were from our rear port quarter–coming from the NE. So following, but off just enough to keep Andy the autopilot from keeping us on track, so I was up to drive. The result of all of that was that as the waves overtook us and lifted and tried to turn us, the wind shifted (forward then back) and the sails filled, then didn’t and it was a mess. So we pulled the sails in, which meant Jan went up on top and braved the rocking and rolling. Then we turned and headed south with just the genoa up. The third thing we noticed was that there was a line of storms to our left (East) in the middle of the lakes. Which explained the wave direction. These were mean looking squalls; we could see the rain falling in sheets in the distance and it didn’t look pleasant. The storms hung out with us all day; they couldn’t come to the west, but they dared us to come east. We declined.
What we didn’t see, at least until we got to the city, was another boat on the water. Probably due to it being a Wednesday morning after school started, and also maybe due to the small craft warning which had been issued for the day, because, and I am not joking, there was a chance for thunderstorms and waterspouts. Waterspouts. What the hell kind of place is this?!? A fact which we somehow missed. Because we are idiots.1
Chicago was in our sight all day. The distinctive skyline was on the horizon as we left and grew as the morning went on. We knew we were getting closer, but the buildings didn’t seem to increase in size. If you have driven towards the mountains, it is the same experience; you see them in front of you and they look like they are RIGHT THERE and then you go another hour and they are still RIGHT THERE! After 5 hours of RIGHT THERE we did finally make it into the break wall around the Navy Pier and got some calm water. Now our lonely trip was filled with boats. Mostly tour boats that were trying to run us down and crush us under their bows. At least from my perspective. Quick loop around navy pier (very nice) and south into the break wall into Monroe Harbor and north to DuSable Marina.
DuSable, French for expensive damn harbor2, is our new home and we pull up to our T-head and Jan and AJ nail the landing once again. AJ throws his line from the boat around the cleat first try. We used the app Dockwa for our reservation and had been provided all the information (gate codes, etc) prior to arrival, but we didn’t have the wifi password (the most important thing) so went to check in at the office. Then it was work for the rest of the day to prepare for our unstep appointment at Crowley’s boat yard on Thursday. We had to bring down both sails, remove the mainsail cover, get lines and sheets off the sails and into our bag o’ lines or around the mast/boom. Fold up sails and store. Clean the boat. And AJ had to do his school work.
Which is what we did the rest of the afternoon. All tasks were complete and we managed to get the sails down and stored before a rainstorm moved through. It took until 6pm to get everything done, and once complete, we put on our shoes and headed to Brown Bag Seafood to get some dinner and then to a grocery store for some provisions for a couple of days.3 What we didn’t do was take a shower. Ick.
Start: DuSable Harbor, Chicago
End: Crowley’s Yacht Yard, Chicago (South side)
Total Distance: 12.9
Average Speed: 5.2
We arise early AGAIN (this is getting old) and get underway by 0645 in order to make the 12 mile trip south to Crowley’s in time for our 0900 appointment to get the mast unstepped. The wind is again 10-15 knots coming from the west, which would have been great for sailing except, of course, we don’t have any sails. The waves are once again a bit bigger than forecasted and if they don’t settle down, we are going to be in for a rough ride back. We are moving to Calumet harbor and then into the Calumet river. When we enter the harbor we are technically in Indiana, so adding that to the list. We get the 95th street bridge to lift for us so can make it through to Crowley’s and pull up at 0845. By 0945, it is done. Our mast is off, our instruments are back on our boat and the mast/boom is wrapped and ready for shipment. It cost us a boat unit which is going to leave a mark. But the removal was pain free (for us) and well done. While we were there another catamaran pulled in behind us to get their mast unstepped as well. It was a family of four with two boys (2 and 4) who are also heading down the river. We spent an hour with them, then pulled away and headed back up to DuSable.
Start: Crowley’s Yacht Yard, Chicago (South side)
End: DuSable Harbor, Chicago
Total Distance: 12.8
Average Speed: 4.8
Fortunately the waves were down a bit and rolly instead of rocky and we made it back relatively quickly and tied up. Then we cleaned the boat (again). And realized that we were all very tired after three days of working. And that at least one of us had not showered in 48-72 hours and was stinking up the place. Shower, dinner and walk along the waterfront. Then to bed.
Tomorrow we begin to explore Chicago. Five days here and then we start on down the river.
1 Or maybe not idiots, but we got a bit complacent. Lake Michigan has great maritime information. NOAA has a great web page in which you can get wave height, forecast for winds and weather for any point on the lake as well as alerts and potential for alerts. And there are some sexy (if you are into that sort of things) pictures of the wave models that show wave heights. Both of which we check repeatedly. Except on Wednesday morning. We woke up, checked our three weather apps and saw that the wind forecast was same(ish) as the day before and assumed that everything else was the same and headed out. And found larger waves from the wrong way. Storms. Etc. It may have not made any difference–we probably would have gone anyway, but delayed an hour to make sure the rain squalls were cleared, but having ALL the information on hand before departing would have been better.
2 It is not. DuSable is the name of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, known as the founder of Chicago and thought to be the first resident of Chicago whose estate was at the mouth of the Chicago river, just north of this harbor. For what it is work, google tells me that du sable is french for sand.
3 We have provisioned at a bunch of different places. In Canada and way northern Michigan, especially on the islands, you stores are extremely small (like a small bedroom), have very limited supplies and are expensive. You get what they have and make due. Or catch fish and get blueberries and make it better! Grocery stores of all sizes from small, local store to Wal Mart Superstore. We walk into this store at the base of a high rise building. Two floors. First floor is butcher, deli, sushi bar, salad bar big as some stores we have been in, hot food bar, veggies and fruit. Bottom floor is canned/boxed goods. It was almost overwhelming the amount of stuff crammed in the place.