Calumet Dreams I'm writing this while rocking to the wakes left by
waterskiers on the Kankakee River in Illinois.
in the cabin of our boat using our 286 PC for the first
Now that we have the PC on board and working I am hoping
keep our updates more frequent.
We've been on our boat for almost three weeks now, so
lots to tell. Here's our story day-by-day.
should be almost as much fun as watching someone else's
movies, only here you get to make up most
of the pictures on your own. We do have a few pictures
our new digital camera uploaded on the site just to keep
imagination from straying too far from reality.
Day 1 - Wednesday, June 28
June 28 - July 6
Departing * Lake Michigan * South Winds * Tacking * Waves * Milwaukee * Storms * Fog * Damage * Racine* Chicago
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I'm writing this while rocking to the wakes left by waterskiers on the Kankakee River in Illinois. I'm sitting in the cabin of our boat using our 286 PC for the first time. Now that we have the PC on board and working I am hoping to keep our updates more frequent.
We've been on our boat for almost three weeks now, so I have lots to tell. Here's our story day-by-day. Reading it should be almost as much fun as watching someone else's home movies, only here you get to make up most of the pictures on your own. We do have a few pictures from our new digital camera uploaded on the site just to keep your imagination from straying too far from reality.
Day 1 - Wednesday, June 28
By 8:00 p.m. we are finally ready to head out to our boat
the Manitowoc Marina and start living aboard. After
weeks of frantic shopping and packing, the house is clean
enough to turn it over to Isaac who will be house-sitting
us during the summer. The kids are thrilled to
they will not have to cut any more grass. Our first
Brillion to pick up some things from the shop.
we realize that Mary forgot her purse at home, so we
and surprise Isaac with a quick return. We eventually
make it to Manitowoc and spend our first night in our
Day 2 - Thursday, June 29
Our plans are to head down to Chicago and visit friends, then go up the east side of Lake Michigan. We'll cross the lake to get back home and pick-up whatever else we forgot or didn't know we needed, then we'll sail up to Green Bay to show the boat to friends up there. After those small practice trips we'll start our official journey to New York.
The Michigan-side of the lake is full of beautiful natural harbors where we can anchor our boat in peaceful waters without needing to pay for a slip. The Wisconsin-side is more of a straight-line coast so we need to get to a marina each night. With good winds in the right direction we expect to get to Chicago to watch the Fourth of July fireworks there.
This morning the winds are in the right direction but
they are light, a good
day for our first sailing lesson. It's a gorgeous
sunny blue-sky day and we
have a very enjoyable trip. The waves are small
- only about one foot high.
The only down-side is that the winds are so light that
we don't go very fast.
We only make it to Sheboygan, the next marina down the
coast, after a full day
of sailing. We pull into the harbor after 8:00
and realize that the regular
marina is no longer monitoring their radio. But
the Sheboygan Yacht Club, in
the same harbor, hears us and lets us dock in one of
their slips. We realize
that we were spoiled at the Manitowoc Marina where they
seem to be monitoring
the radio 24 hours a day. The kids learn that the
difference between a Yacht
Club and a Marina is what you find inside the building.
A Yacht Club always
has a bar. A Marina always has a little store.
We sleep well after our first
day in the surf and sun.
Day 3 - Friday, June 30
We start out hoping to make better time on today's trip. Another sailor at the Yacht Club tests the wind and says we can probably make it to Milwaukee in five hours. Things start out well, but after an hour the wind shifts. Instead of coming out of the west/southwest it decides to come out of the south. This is bad news for us since that is the direction we want to go. We decide to put our engine to use. It does well but we learn that our speed against the wind is less than 5 knots (5 miles per hour). Plus the wind is strong enough to make the waves 2 to 4 feet high and Tricia begins to feel very sick and gives up her breakfast over the back of the boat. At the end of a long day of motoring, we happily pull in to the Port Washington slip, the next closest harbor down the coast. Tricia scrambles off the boat as quickly as she can so she can feel solid ground under her feet again.
Port Washington has a beautiful new marina and things are hopping because it is Friday night. They have really high docks, and we actually have to step up several feet to get off the boat. We took a walk around downtown in the dark to see the local sights and skateboarders. I remember lots of wooden boardwalks and flowers blooming everywhere. We're happy to learn that all of our motoring only used a couple gallons of gas. We may be slow, but we are very energy efficient. We are using a 10 hp Yamaha engine, which is only a bit bigger than the 6 hp engine on our push lawn mower at home. So I guess our travels use about as much gas as it would take to drive a rider lawn mower. That's about the speed we're going at, too, so we have plenty of time to smell all of the roses along the way.
Day 4 - Saturday, July 1
Again the day starts out with strong winds coming from a good direction, the west. We do well until the wind shifts to the south. But the winds are strong so we try tacking (moving the sailboat east and west in a zigzag pattern that eventually gets you south). It works, but it takes longer to get somewhere. We make it to Milwaukee and anchor in the downtown harbor between Summerfest, the Art Museum and Juneau Park.
The waves in the harbor are a little rough since it is windy and it is a very big harbor. It is too rough to try to take the dinghy out to the 10- foot high steel wall along the edge of the park so even though we were anxious to set foot on land again we had to stay on the boat for the rest of the day.
Although we can't go on land we still get lots of culture. We can see the new Art Museum Annex that is under construction. It was designed by Pei and is very funky. It looks a lot like a giant white mast tipped at a 45-degree angle and held in place by some seriously-large cables. We can also hear all of the music from Summerfest. Unfortunately, we can hear all of the music from the different stages at the same time, so there isn't any single melody to listen to. It's so amazingly loud on our boat that we can't imagine how loud it would be if we were actually on the grounds. That evening there was an outdoor party on the roof of the old Art Museum and they had a live jazz dance band playing. We sat on the top of our boat gazing at the city lights and the giant colored spotlights making patterns above Summerfest and listening to the battle of the bands between Summerfest and the jazz party. The whole cacaphony ended at midnight, but we were so exhausted from our sailing that we all fell asleep long before then.
Day 5 - Sunday, July 2
After three days of sailing we were ready for a rest, so we spent the day at anchor in Milwaukee harbor. The wind died down and the harbor water was calm, so Zion captained the dinghy and took Tricia and I to land. Dan stayed on the boat to do some more painting without anyone underfoot.
Zion, Tricia and I walked to a nearby beach. We waded a bit then spread out our towels on the sand to rest on some firm ground. I said to myself "Now this is perfect". Exactly one second later a big raindrop landed on my face. There was enough rain to chase everyone from the beach. The kids and I started walking back under the tree-lined sidewalk and soon the rain stopped. We started a walking tour of downtown Milwaukee. Tricia was searching for statues to write about in her trip journal. We found three huge bronze statues on our walk. The first was Robert Burns, famoust Scottish poet. The second was Leif Erikson in tights and metal breastplates. The third was Mr. Juneau, the first mayor of Milwaukee. The Juneau statue stood at the top of the cliff overlooking Juneau Park and the harbor. We started to notice that people were staking out squares of grass at this perfect overlook and we figured out that they were reserving spots for the fireworks. That also explained the rows and rows of porta-potties in the fairly deserted park. It looked like we would be able to see the Milwaukee fireworks that evening from a perfect spot in the harbor. We continued walking to Grand Avenue Mall to get some Mississippi Mud ice cream for Tricia and some Blue Moon for Zion. When we came out of the Mall the streets were wet and full of puddles. Apparently we had timed things just right and missed a downpour. On the walk back to the harbor we saw a small bronze statue of a duck and her ducklings on one of the bridges that cross the river. When we got back to the boat we were amazed to see families setting up tents along the edge of the harbor. Apparently, camping out is part of seeing the fireworks in Milwaukee.
While in Milwaukee we used our cell phone to try to make arrangements to meet with friends and family down there. Unfortunately, when we called out we usually got answering machines, and when people called us they often got "not available" messages even though we had our phone on. We did manage to make a tentative agreement with Steve and Amy to meet them at the McKinley Marina dock at 7:00. Unfortunately it started thundering, lightning and pouring at 6:30. We couldn't move out of our anchoring spot. We did manage to set some big bowls out in the cockpit, though, and collect three inches of rain water over the next few hours. The rain water was a real taste treat compared to the city water we were drinking. Steve and Amy did make it to the Marina on time and then spent half an hour in their car during the downpour. They tried calling us to find out where we were, but the telephone connection didn't work for some unknown reason. They headed back home and finally got us on the phone. So, thank you Steve and Amy for making the effort to see us. We'll have to figure out an easier way next time, or just pick a time that better suits Mother Nature's schedule.
We were afraid the bad weather was also going to ruin the fireworks we were expecting. Eventually we learned that the fireworks were scheduled for Monday night, not Sunday night. I guess the campers come out the day before just to get the best spots. We fell asleep again to the mixed strains of Summerfest. And, yes, the Summerfest Ferris Wheel did actually stop during the storm.
Day 6 - Monday, July 3
Another day of sailing south. The winds were high and coming from a good direction so we started out hopeful that we would indeed reach Chicago for the Fourth of July fireworks. Once we were out on the lake, the fog came and deepened and the winds got very strong and the waves got 3 to 6 feet high. We got the sails under control, and then our traveller broke scattering small ball bearings all over the cockpit. The lines on the jib got tangled and Zion had to crawl up on top of the boat, reach over the side, and untangle them while the wind was whipping them in his face (and in those winds they felt more like sticks than soft ropes). He did a great job. In fact, he was the only one that didn't get sick. I threw up over the back of the boat, Dan threw up in a bucket while steering, and Tricia threw up somewhere else out there. We couldn't see the shore because of the thick fog. We took down our sails and motored. Dan put the coordinates of the Racine harbor into his GPS unit and the GPS told us what heading to take to get there. Dan kept the boat on that heading while sitting down by the side of the steering wheel because he was so sick. I kept searching the fog for some sight of land. Eventually, it showed up and we were right on target for the Racine harbor. We were very lucky, because Racine turned out to be the best marina on the lake. We happily paid our money to get a slip and found out that in addition to a large lounge with a big screen TV, there was also an outdoor swimming pool and two hot tubs for us to use. When we finally got comfy in the lounge we found out it was four o'clock. We had been out on the lake much longer than we thought we had been.
We were all very exhausted and shaken from our ordeal on the lake that day. But our spirits were lifted greatly by the other boaters we met. There were families everywhere for the Fourth of July holiday. The kids made quick friends in the pool and had fun showing off the inside of our boat. Zion and Tricia learned that other kids were actually jealous of their rooms. Most of the other kids had to sleep on top of tables or double bunks. Zion's and Tricia's private berths were luxurious in comparison.
In the hot tub Dan and I met some nice people from Madison. They had to trailer their boats out to Lake Michigan just to use them this year. They said that the water level on Lake Mendota is so high that all of the docks are underwater. This was the first time they had been on Lake Michigan. They had done all of their previous boating on small lakes and the Mississippi. Their stories of the Mississippi sounded good. They said it was lots of fun to go north of Dubuque because of all the sand bars and wildlife in the river. They said that going south of Dubuque was very boring. After the exciting day we had just experienced on Lake Michigan, boring sounded very good. Our whole family got excited about being able to head south on a river that didn't have any big waves. We decided to learn more about that route and see if it would work out for us.
Day 7 - Tuesday, July 4
We were all enjoying the Racine Marina so much, we decided to keep the slip for one more night. The kids played with friends all day, and Dan and I sat in the hot tub and watched the fireworks that evening.
Day 8 - Wednesday, July 5
We spent the day fixing up the boat. Dan found a
West Marine store nearby
that he could walk to. He got the parts he needed
to make repairs. I tried
to find a grocery store because we had left Manitowoc
without any fresh fruit
or vegetables on board, but there were none within walking
marinas we've stayed at have all been downtown close
to the shopping
districts, but not anywhere near grocery stores.
Grocery stores all seem to
be built on the outside edge of towns. There's
always a marina store where
you can buy soda and ice cream, but no milk or apples
A neighboring fisherman did give us a huge lake trout that he had caught. Luckily, he cleaned it and filleted it before he gave it to us, or I would have had a real challenge in front of me. Each half of the fish was an inch thick, about 15 inches long and 6 inches wide. Boneless, it was a lot of meat and we had to eat all of it in 24 hours because we didn't have a refrigerator. I cut one half in strips, breaded it in cornmeal, and fried it for breakfast. Dan and I thought it was great, but the kids didn't think much of it. The other half I steamed, then put into a stew with Italian tomatoes and spinach noodles. Dan and I liked that, too. I was really hungry for a good trout boil with onions and potatoes, but we didn't have any of those fresh veggies on board.
The Racine Public Library was near the harbor, so Tricia
and I spent the
afternoon there while Zion played with a friend and Dan
painted some more on
the boat. The Library only had two Internet computers
(I remember the Green
Bay Library having about 20 or 30 of them). Internet
use was limited to 30
minutes, so I only had time to answer our e-mails and
leave a brief update on
where we were.
We spent the night anchored in the Racine harbor since we planned to leave early the next morning for Chicago.
Day 9 - Thursday, July 6
We left early and did a lot of motoring since the winds
were coming out of the
south again. We passed the big Zion Nuclear Plant
with its giant windmill and
eventually ended up anchoring in Chicago about 8:00 that
evening. It was too
late to tell anyone that we had arrived. We ate
a late dinner and went to
bed. We were anchored right next to the John Hancock
building. The city
lights were an awesome thing to see after dark.
John Hancock was even
sporting a special red, white and blue light display
on their top floor in
honor of the Fourth. The size and beauty of the
big buildings makes you
marvel at what men can create when they work together.