July 7 - July 13
Downtown Chicago * Marinas * Lotsa Rules * Friends * Walking Tours * Short Trip Home * Take Mast Down
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Day 10 - Friday, July 7
We left our anchoring spot and went to find a slip in a marina. We motored south through the harbor. We went past the end of Navy Pier, where the ten large U.S. flags were flying straight out because of the brisk wind. It was a grand sight. We went past the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum and found acres of marinas. The first one was Monroe Marina. All of the boats there are on moorings. They don't have docks with slips. Because of the brisk wind and the brisk waves, the boats were all bouncing around quite a bit. You could see all of the masts swinging wildly back and forth. Needless to say, we kept going. The next marina was Burnham Park. They had docks and slips and they were willing to let us stay at a dock for one night as transients. (A transient is a boat that only stays in a marina for a few nights. Most boats in marinas are there for the whole season.)
Chicago marinas are amazing because they have far more
boats than any of the
other marinas we had been to, and they have the smallest
marina offices and
stores that we had ever seen. Space is certainly
at a premium. We estimated
that there were one thousand boats just in the Burnham
Park marina. There are
not many empty spots, either. At first they told
us we could use the end of
one of the docks. It was a spot normally used by a 130-foot
boat. An hour
later they told us that the big boat was coming back
and we had to move. The
only other spot for our wide boat was up near shore where
the slip was only
one-sided. Dan checked it out and found large boulders
under the surface.
While trying to figure out what to do, the Harbormaster
learned that the big
boat wasn't coming in until Saturday so we could stay
in the slip at the end
of the dock for the night. With that settled, we
gave my friend Jeanne a call
to come and join us for dinner on the boat. She
offered to bring something
and we begged for fresh fruit. She showed up with
melon and plums and
apricots and strawberries and pineapple and a bottle
of wine! We had a grand
On the dock we got the chance to talk to some experienced Lake Michigan sailors. We've found that experienced sailors are always very interested in our boat because it is a catamaran and they want to know how it performs compared to a monohull sailboat. In general, we found that we can go about twice as fast as a monohull (12 knots top speed instead of 6 knots), but we can't turn as sharply because we are so wide. Because we can't make sharp turns, our tacking is not as effective. Anyway, this man was getting ready to do the race from Chicago to Mackinac Island. We learned that he travels with seven crew members because he needs four experienced hands on deck at all times. (While four work, the other four sleep.) He confirmed that Lake Michigan is tougher to sail on than the Gulf of Mexico. This info verified our decision to head south on the river.
After having struggled so hard to get the boat south to Chicago, the thought of taking it back home on the Lake wasn't appealing to anyone in our crew. But we did have things at home we needed to get (the most important thing being this PC that I'm using right now). So we decided to make arrangements to drive home for a day and pick-up what we needed. It would also give the kids a last chance to see their friends because when we left on June 28 we had told them that we would be back again before taking off on our long trip.
If we were going to be leaving Chicago for a few days, we needed a cheap place to keep our boat. Dan and Zion went to check-out Monroe Harbor on foot. They learned that no one had a dinghy for their boats on the moorings. Instead, the marina offered water taxi service. Because it was Friday, there were lots of people patiently waiting on the water taxis (boats that hold about 15 people) to be taken out to their sailboats. Because it was a windy day, the people were bouncing up and down in the taxis, the boats were bouncing up and down on their moorings and the whole scene was very frenetic. With so many boats crammed into such a small space, it was hard to believe that they weren't crashing into each other.
There were also a few moorings at the very southmost end of Burnham Harbor. Normally, Burnham Harbor does not allow transients to use the moorings, but the Harbormaster was very kind to us and let us stay anyway. He said it was because we had the kids with us. He couldn't imagine kids surviving safely in Monroe harbor. His thoughtfulness was greatly appreciated. However, to use the mooring we had to buy a special swivel pin to attach with. The only place to get one of these was at a West Marine store many, many blocks away.
Day 11 - Saturday, July 8
Jeanne kindly volunteered to be our chauffeur on Saturday morning. She dropped off Dan and Zion at the West Marine store and then took Tricia and I to a grocery store. I was surprised at how high the prices were compared to back home. The cheapest eggs were $1.29 a dozen and I remember paying only 72 cents back home. The checker was very nice to me, though, when I said I was from out of town. She swiped a discount store card through the machine for me and my 38$ worth of groceries cost only 32$.
Jeanne drove us back to our boat, then we said we would
motor it up to the
Ohio Street beach. She could walk to the beach
from her home and we would
meet her there later in the afternoon. Before hitting
the beach, we had to
get Tricia to the Ferris Wheel on Navy Pier so she could
meet her friend
Kelsea and spend an overnight in the suburbs. Dan
motored right up to the
pier and dropped Tricia and I off. Navy Pier was
very hot and very crowded,
but we got there right on time and found her friend.
After Tricia left, Dan
motored the boat back up to the pier and I jumped back
on. Then we motored
north to the anchoring spot by John Hancock and the Ohio
Street beach that we
had stayed in on our first night. On that first
night, we were alone in the
anchoring area. On this beautiful, sunny afternoon
there were about thirty
other boats already anchored there. Most of them
were small power boats and
the owners were just laying in the sun catching some
rays. Some boats had
families aboard that were swimming in the water.
That looked like so much fun
that Zion couldn't resist taking his first swim in Lake
When Zion was done swimming, we all got in the dinghy and rowed up to the beach to meet Jeanne. It was all working out wonderfully well when a lifeguard came up to us to tell us that we were not allowed to bring a dinghy into the swimming area. We said "OK, we'll just swim back and forth to our boat", but she said that wasn't allowed either. We still don't understand why they have official anchoring areas without any way to get to shore, but they do. These rules put a kink in our plans since there was no way for Zion and I to get back to the boat if we spent the afternoon walking around the city with Jeanne. Dan had been planning to do some more painting on the boat while it was anchored. Luckily, the lifeguard said it would be OK for Dan to row the dinghy back. Jeanne said that Zion and I could spend the night at her place and she would drive us back to Burnham Harbor on Sunday. Unfortunately, the cheapest parking spot anywhere near Burnham Harbor is $7. Small errands in the big city aren't nearly as easy as they are in other places.
Jeanne, Zion and I had a great time walking around the city. We wanted to go to the Chicago Cultural Center to see the construction site of the new amphitheatre that is being built downtown. We got there five minutes before closing time so we didn't see much. We'll have to try again on another visit. Then we walked to Grant Park for the Taste of Chicago celebration. Restaurants from all over town set up tents and sell some of their specialties. We got to try some shish kabob, Greek chicken pitas and Irish Cream ice cream. Good stuff! Zion got especially excited when he saw the view of Buckingham Fountain from the same direction that it's shown on the opening credits of "Married With Children". A special treat was a show in the park by some mimes on top of large sticks. They could make their sticks sway forward or backward or around in circles and they seemed to be doing some kind of interpretive dance way above the heads of the crowd. On the walk back to Jeanne's place she pointed out the 9-hole public golf course that is right downtown. We also got to see the new buildings that are being fixed up along the Chicago River. Each of the buildings has to have a special shade of green somewhere on their exterior. The green matches the river exactly. The river is green and not brown because it is actually flowing backwards, taking lake water inland.
We were talking about going out for pizza as the sun started
setting. But as
we got to the beach near Jeanne's home we noticed that
the waves were
unusually large, two to four feet, while there was very
little wind. Zion
loves to play in waves, so he did that for quite awhile
as dusk came.
Amazingly, there was still a lifeguard on duty.
He was sitting out in his
dinghy riding the waves and watching Zion and the other
wave jumpers. By the
time swimming was done, we were too tired to go out so
we went to Jeanne's
place to watch a movie and have pizza delivered.
Dan spent the night anchored
out in the harbor. By the time darkness came, he
was the only boat left in
the anchoring area. He got a great view of the
fireworks from Navy Pier. He
said they were even better than the Racine fireworks
that we had seen on the
Fourth. And the Navy Pier fireworks are shot off
every Wednesday and
Saturday. I guess there are some benefits to living
in the big city!
Day 12 - Sunday, July 9
Sunday morning Dan took the boat back to Burnham Harbor, and Jeanne drove Zion and I back. We wanted to take Jeanne for a short cruise on the boat, but clouds were threatening and the waves were kicking up so we didn't get a chance to go out of the harbor. We did take the boat out to our mooring and attached our swivel hook. Soon we were floating around just like all of the other boats around us. Our mooring was right between the McCormick Center and the small private airport for people who own their own planes. The small airport strip actually acts as a breakwater and protects the marina. We could hear planes landing and taking off all day. We were also close enough to Soldier Field that we could hear the announcer and the "Star Spangled Banner" when there was a big soccer game being played. All in all, the mooring was a great place to be. The water was calm and we could use our dinghy to get to shore.
Later on Sunday Tricia came back to us. Then we all enjoyed swimming around our boat in the clear Lake Michigan water. It was so clear that you could see all of the way down to your toes. It's a good thing that the swimming was easy because every time that we came back to our mooring in our big boat it seemed that our mooring lines had gotten tangled around the buoy. It was Zion's job to jump in the water with his goggles and untangle the rope.
Our mooring was near the path that led out to the lake, but on Saturday and Sunday that path became a boat freeway for all of the weekend boaters. Boats were moving past constantly. The Chicago Police boat was frequently in sight. In the evening we saw it towing back a power boat that looked like it had been on fire because it had a big black spot. I have a great admiration for the Chicago Police on the weekend. They must be constantly busy. I don't know how they could survive without a huge dose of patience for their fellow members of the human race.
Days 13, 14 & 15 - Monday thru Wednesday, July 10-12
A BIG THANK YOU to Jeanne for letting us borrow her car to drive back home. We drove home on Monday, did errands and packing on Tuesday, then headed back to Chicago on Wednesday. We tried reaching some family and friends while we were home to let them know how we were doing. Some we got ahold of, some we missed. If we missed you, please accept our apologies. It was a very busy day and we didn't have time to make all of the visits that we would have liked. We are planning to drive home again in fall to pick up more stuff after we reach the Gulf of Mexico.
The most important supplies that we still have at home are three boxes of kids' school books. We weren't sure how we would fit them on the boat, but now that things are getting more organized onboard I'm finding plenty of unused storage space for them. And Tricia has been reading like crazy. I think she'll get through all of our onboard books by the end of summer. It's a shame that now when she has lots of time to read she can't take advantage of library books! When we stop at libraries to check our e-mail she looks longingly at new titles but then has to leave them on the shelves. In fact, Tricia is developing a great appreciation for libraries, fresh milk, and automatic flush toilets.
Day 16 - Thursday, July 13
Our big job today was getting the mast taken down at the Burnham Harbor Yacht Club. We needed the mast down for our trip to the Gulf. Actually, it took less than an hour. We spent the afternoon swimming around our boat in the harbor, knowing that we would soon be trading the beautiful, clear, aqua lake water for muddy brown river water. Zion tied a rope to the boat and let it hang down thru the front nets. He and Tricia would play under the boat by crawling up the rope and jumping into the water. We went to bed early that night because we knew that Friday would be a long day.