Illinois Valley Yacht (IVY) Club, Peoria Heights, IL to Tall Timbers Marina, Havana, IL — September 27, 2013

What a glorious morning with temps in the low 50’s but warming quickly.  No clouds and little wind and temps predicted in the mid 80’s.

Candy and I saw a tow go by when we were finishing our morning walk about 7:00 and I called the Peoria Lock at 7:30 to find out what their status was.  They thought they would be clear in about 2 hours.  I woke Lenore and said we would leave in about an hour or so to time getting to the lock around 10:00.

The cruise down to the lock was uneventful but Peoria looked nice in all the sunshine and there seemed to be plenty of boats in the marinas in downtown.  We did not pass any tows on the way to the lock although there was some traffic re-arranging barges on the side of the river.  When we got to the lock, it was empty and they opened the doors as we approached.  Only a drop of 10′ so it went quickly.

The weather stayed good for the day.  We did pass probably 5 tows during the day going south and probably 2 headed north.  Some of the towns are fairly large, 3 x 4 (3 barges wide by 4 barges long). They seem to all be traveling about 5 or 6 mph.

We arrived at Tall Timbers Marina in the early afternoon and tied up.  We had stayed here last year and this is the last marina on the Illinois River.  We still have 120 miles to Grafton IL. at the intersection of the Illinois River with the Mississippi River.  We will need to anchor out one night.

Havana is a medium small town of about 3600 residents with more than enough restaurants.  They are a little light on grocery stores.  The only store with some groceries is the Dollar General store.  No fresh food but lunchmeat, eggs, juice, snacks and dry goods.

There is a very nice Riverfront Park in town.  Candy and I have walked it.  It stretches about 5 city blocks along the river and has a Nature Center and a Campground.  The Tall Timbers Marina is at the north end of the park.

I talked with the Owner Bob about the spring floods.  He said the flood reached the 100 year flood mark plus 8″.  So they set a new record at flood level. He said he was glad they made him put his house and workshop above the 100 year flood level.  He designed the marina to be able to withstand flooding and other that one broken gangway he achieved his goal.  He had 3.5′ of water in the parking lot and had to launch the boats he had on stands but he survived well.

Heritage Harbor, Ottawa, IL to Illinois Valley Yacht (IVY) Club, Peoria Heights, IL– September 24, 2013

Another crisp morning in Illinois.  Temps were about 47 this morning when Candy and I went for our walk.  Along the way we met a man talking on his cell phone and from what I overheard he was talking to the 1st lock of the day, Starved Rock Lock.  When he was off the call I introduced myself and asked about the lock.  He was from the boat Pazza Bella and related that the lock were going to bring a big tow up and should be ready in about an hour and 15 minutes. Needless to say we needed to hustle as the lock was about 11 miles downstream from us.

I had awaken Lenore before Candy and I went out so she was up and moving about.  I was able to get underway in about 20 minutes after Candy and I got back to the boat.  Almost thought we had a problem when the starboard engine would not start but in rechecking the switches and found while the key switch was over to the right. but it had not fully clicked on.  Boy did that relieve a few anxious moments.

Underway we moved along at about 11 mph, a little faster than normal but I needed to catch Pazza Bella who had departed maybe 5 to 7 minutes ahead of us.  We did catch up and settled back to a 9.5 to 10 mph speed to the lock.  We arrived just as a tow was departing the lock.  There was also a sailboat that was waiting lockage down so there were 3 of us in the lock.

The remainder of the trip was interesting from the standpoint that we some significant tow traffic on the river.  We also had some other pleasure craft on the river and I followed one all the way to the IVY Club.  He was back and forth on the river and his speed was erratic.  I tried several times to pass and he would speed up and then I would fall back behind him and he would slow down.  He continued on past the IVY Club.

When we arrived at the IVY Club Pazza Bella was in their slip and helped the harbor master with our lines.  The couple on Pazza Bella are Mike and Veronica from Charleston South Carolina.  Mike and Veronica are 6 months into doing the Loop and headed to the rendezvous at Joe Wheeler State Park on the Tennessee River.  We had dinner with them at the No Wake Zone bar and grill across the street from the IVY Club.

Lenore and I had stayed at the IVY Club last year but the bar was closed and it thunder stormed most of the evening after we had arrived last year.  They had a big flood this spring.  When you look at the photos the water was 3 1/2 feet above the second floor of the building and they are still in the process of renovating.

We will stay here 3 days to get mail and we ordered a replacement chip for the chartplotter as the chip for the center of the US is somehow missing.

Harborside Marina, Wilmington, IL to Heritage Harbor, Ottawa, IL — September 21, 2013

Good sunny morning with the river ready for us.  It was cool this morning but not real cold. We called the 1st lock before we left the dock as it was only 2 miles downriver.  They indicated they had no traffic and to call them back when we were in site of the lock.

All went well at the first lock and there were no delays.  The travel down the river was great with minimal boat traffic on the river for a Saturday.  We did not see any tows or pass any along the way.  We contacted the next lock when we were a couple of miles away so they could hold the lock if there was down bound traffic.  Again they said to call them when we were in site of the lock. When we arrived at the next lock we heard the lock master call to the “pleasure craft down bound”.  We called him on the radio and he said he was trying to contact the boat in front of the lock door where the kids were swimming.  They responded and he told them to have the kids get back in the boat because they were filling the lock and they did not want the kids getting sucked into the valves (honest – his words).  Needless to say the kids scrambled back into the boat in a hurry.  It was a 18′ runabout with 3 adults and 2 kids aboard that had passed us on the river about 45 minutes before. The locking was uneventful after the swimming.

We arrived at Heritage Harbor in Ottawa IL, that is just a few miles above the Starved Rock Lock.  We had help from some of the local boaters in getting tied up.  Lots of friendly people on the dock.  Being a nice sunny weekend there were quite a few of the boaters at their boats to enjoy some of the final good weather for the season.  They had a dock party in the early evening and there were a lot of good stories form them and they asked a lot of questions about the loop, especially when they found out this was our 2nd loop. I left the dock party about 8 but it continued for another hour or so as the evening was getting pretty chilly.

Sunday we had a visit from friend we made last year, Don and Kate from Fandango.  We had traveled with them on the Mississippi last year and then saw them again in Belhaven NC.  We traveled with them from the Dismal Swamp to Norfolk and were going to meet up wit them again in Canada but the closing of the Erie Canal had them on the Hudson River side of the closure. They live in Wisconsin and drove down for the day.   We had a nice brunch at the Starved Rock Lodge.

We decided to stay Monday so we could do laundry in town.  They have a courtesy car at the marina so it is easy to get into town.

DuSable Harbor, Chicago, IL To Harborside Marina, Wilmington, IL — September 20, 2013

Chicago was great in spite of all the news about what was going on in the south part of the city.  We were in downtown and enjoyed it.  Candy really liked walking Navy Pier and the weather for the most part cooperated.

We went to dinner downtown and then walked a block to a grocery store.  It was interesting that there are several grocery stores in downtown Chicago unlike Detroit.  This was not a small neighborhood store although it was not a large Kroger store either. It was convenient.

We struggled in the morning about whether to leave or not because there was a 40% chance of thunderstorms.  Most of the forecasts did indicate the chance of rain would be gone by early afternoon and the radar looked pretty clear so we decided to leave.  You can see in the photos that it was cloudy.

Even with the cloudy skies, going thru downtown on the Chicago River is spectacular.  Winding thru the hi-rises and looking at the City from a different perspective is quite an experience. It is just unfortunate that it does not last longer than it does.  As we were leaving downtown we had to wait at a railroad bridge for 3 commuter trains to pass.  The clearance in the down position is only 10′ but the wait was only about 20 minutes so it was not bad.

The barge traffic on the river was not to active.  We did have to pass several tows and there were a lot of tows moving barges from one dock to another along the way.  Lot of areas where the barges were being loaded and unloaded.  I guess it was a pretty normal workday on the Chicago River. About 20 miles down river the Calumet Sag Canal joins the Chicago River.  The Calumet Sag is the alternate entrance to the Illinois River and it is about 10 miles south of downtown Chicago on Lake Michigan.  It is also industrial in nature but not quite as active the Chicago River.

We passed thru the Asian Fish fence.  This is an electric underwater fence to prevent the carp from migrating north to the great lakes from the river system.  They are considered an invasive species.  This system is in place thanks to the Army Corp of Engineers.

We traveled thru our first 2 locks downstream of Chicago for the trip.  The Illinois River locks are very user friendly compared to a lot of the locks we will see.  They have a floating bollard located in the sidewall of the lock.  All you need to do is loop your line around the bollard and tie it back to the boat. You do this at the mid-ship cleat and that is all there is to it.  The bollard goes down at the water goes down so the line length does not need to change.  We were pretty lucky at the locks we only waited at the first lock as they completed bring a boat up and then we went down.  The second lock had the doors opening for us as we approached.

We stayed at a marina called Harborside in Wilmington Illinois.  The entrance to the marina was described pretty good by the manager when we called ahead.  We arrived after the marina office had closed but there were enough locals around to assist with the docking.  Really nice people there for their weekend on the boat.  There was a restaurant on site and one of the locals lent us his golf cart so we could drive up to the restaurant.  When we arrived back the locals were all busy getting things ready for their Saturday night party which I thought was their end of season party.  Candy had a great time going around an seeing if she could help.

One of the local ladies works for Keebler Industries and left a shopping bag full of different crackers and cookies on the boat.  What a surprise and a nice gesture.  We will enjoy them.

 

Washington Park Municipal Marina, Michigan City, Indiana to DuSable Harbor, Chicago, IL — September 17, 2013

Pretty cold this morning for boaters.  It was 42 when Candy and I went for our walk.  The sky was partly to mostly cloudy and the winds had shifter to the southeast as predicted.  So it looks like we will go to Chicago today.

The wind was up a little so we stayed within about 2 miles of the shore until we passed Gary Indiana and needed to go further out to avoid some industrial area on a peninsula and a shoal area. The water was not bad and the trip was essentially uneventful.  The Indiana shoreline gets more and more commercial as you move west And even on a not so clear day the Chicago skyline is visible from 15 miles away.

This year we decided to stay at DuSable Harbor which is right downtown with great walking access to Millennium Park.  Bay Pier is just on the other side of the Chicago River.  There is a trade off for all this good access, the slip fees are the highest on the Great Lakes and they also charge $20 per night for electricity.

We also have access to their water front parks and hiking trail that extends for miles and miles. Candy and I were out for our walk and you need to be careful on the trail so you do not get run over by the bike riders.

We took a cab last night to a restaurant called Bub City.  It is located on North Clark Street in downtown. The food was good but the crowd was a somewhat younger crowd and Lenore and I brought the average age up a little.  They were pretty busy for a Tuesday evening.  The rush hour traffic was terrible on the way there but better on the way back. Lenore is going looking for a yarn shop today and Candy and I will explore Millennium Park.  There is a chance of rain so we will need to keep an eye to the sky.

We plan on staying in Chicago till Friday morning and then enter the Chicago River to head south.  We are not sorry to put Lake Michigan behind us.  It just has been a lot rougher on us than what we are used to.  The rivers will be better.

South Haven Municipal Marina, South Haven, MI to Washington Park Municipal Marina. Michigan City, Indiana — September 16, 2013

The wind was really blowing this morning out of the north when Candy and I went out for a walk at first light.  You could hear the breakers on the beach to the north of the harbor entrance and the swells coming down the Black River were at least 3′ and the boat was moving around.  The flags were out straight so the wind was at least 15 knots and maybe more.

I looked at the forecast and the sky was supposed to clear later and the winds were supposed to be out of the northeast at 11 to 13 knots.  One of the locals thought that the waves were at least 3′ with the current wind.

Around noon Candy and I walked to the beach to look at the lake.  The wind was still out of the north but there were no whitecaps and the flags were not blowing stiff.  We decided to leave because the wind would be at our back and see how far we could get south in the lake.

The ride out the Black River was quite an experience with the swells still rolling into the river and we were moving at no wake speed.  Once we cleared the mouth of the river we were able to turn southwest and pick up the speed. The lake did not seem to be too bad but the waves were maybe 3′ with a few 4′ thrown in.

We passed a nuclear power plant about 5 miles south of South Haven.  There also were still some sand dunes of sort down in this area.  I always thought they were in the north portion of the lower peninsula.

The ride was still good when we past Benton Harbor/St. Joe’s.  The wind seemed to pickup some as we moved further south. There were a few whitecaps behind us and the waves were building some.  It did not slow us but we were throwing more spray now. Our original thoughts were to go to Hammond Indiana to fuel before going to Chicago.  With our late start I thought we could make Hammond today and Chicago would be a short run tomorrow.  With the waves building we would have needed to turn about 60 degrees to the west and we would have been running the troughs of the waves, not a pleasant ride.

We had set a waypoint for Michigan City Indiana and we decided to stop for the day at the Washington Park Municipal Marina so we had some time before sunset for dinner and Candy.  It was quite a challenge to enter the inlet channel with 6′ and 7′ behind us but the opening in the break wall was nice and wide with a sharp turn to port right after the break wall opening.

Very large marina with an awful lot of large boats. I think many of the boaters here are from the Chicago/Illinois area to the west to avoid the high cost of downtown Chicago.  The diesel here is $4.20 per gallon vs. Chicago’s $5.40 per gallon. Chicago is only about 35 miles to the west on the lake. The Marina has a nice City park attached to it and some large sand piles/dunes between the marina and the lake.

The winds are supposed to be out of the southeast tomorrow and less than 10 knots so we will probably move to Chicago after fueling here.

 

Advanced Marine Solutions, Muskegon, MI To South Haven Municipal Marina, South Haven, MI — September 14, 2013

This morning was a bright crisp cold September morning with temperatures in the low 40’s, you could see your breath.  Lots of steam coming off the water so we waited for the sun to warm it up a little.

We arrived back at the boat on Wednesday with anticipation of leaving Thursday but the wind predictions on Lake Michigan were not good as there were several cold fronts coming thru the area.  We decided to wait until Saturday because it was supposed to be sunny, cool and not a great deal of wind.

Muskegon Lake was quite busy his morning with the fishermen that were out but nothing like the inlet river at the mouth of Muskegon Lake.  There must have been 50 boats there and as we approached a ferry was coming in from Lake Michigan and the fisherman spread just enough to let the ferry thru and then closed ranks again.  I slowed but we went thru and I blew the horn a couple of times but as long as I wasn’t going to hit their boat they stayed where they were.  There were only a few fishermen on Lake Michigan so that was not a real issue.

Lake Michigan was pretty flat with no real wind so we headed directly for Hammond Indiana where I wanted to fill up before going the last 12 miles to Chicago.  The winds were predicted to be out of the southeast for the morning and turning to the southwest in the afternoon.  Well about 2 hours out the wind was from the southwest and getting stronger.  We had 3+ footers with whitecaps so we tried several different headings to avoid the pounding and finally settled on going to South Haven with the waves on our stern.  We spent a lot of time on the water for the actual distance we traveled down the Michigan shoreline.

South Haven was busy with fishermen and sail boaters although the traffic was not as bad as we had leaving Muskegon Lake.  The inlet river into South Haven is the Black River. The South Haven Municipal Marina has slips on both sides of the river and we were put on the long dock on the south side.

The City of South Haven has a very nice downtown. approx. a 5 block area with lots of restaurants and various shops.  The Town was pretty busy for the 2nd full weekend of September but the weather was great and that had a lot to do with it.  There is a nice river walk on the south side that Candy and I used to walk back to the Lake where there is a huge beach.  It seems to be common practice for some of the fishermen to troll the river between the lake and the marina.

As I write this it is raining.  We had decided to stay today because there is a lot of rain on the radar and the wind is still out of the southwest. Tomorrow is predicted to be sunny and winds out of the northeast.