Finishing up season three of the Great Loop
30 September 2019
Leaving the Chicago mooring field at dawn we traveled through downtown in fog so heavy that we could not see the top half of the buildings along the river. The views were amazing but the pictures could not due justice to the architecture that towered above us. Once we passed through the city, the rest of the Illinois river was mostly sparsely populated countryside. Over the 330 miles we passed through 8 locks. Some of these held us up for a few hours while others had us literally gliding right over the dam. These latter dams were wicket dams that could be lowered below the waterline allowing boats to pass right over them when water levels allowed.
The mighty Mississippi was not as terrifying as I had feared. The current was strong enough to bump our average speed from 7.5 to 12-13 knots! The downside was the debris that we had to dodge, from small games to large logs, it kept us on our toes. No marinas are available so we pushed hard for 2 days to cover the 218 miles.
Traveling the Ohio was against the current but fortunately we only saw about 1/2 knot. A detour, a marina or two and we were hauled out and heading to the Ford dealership to pick up a car that I had purchased online.
I love this voyage but was ready to spend the winter in our RV Golf community in Texas. It was a good time to end the season as these rivers were my least favorite part of the loop so far. Next season we will spend time on the lovely Tennessee and Tombigbee Waterway and finish up the Florida coast to cross or wake in Fort Myers.
Three seasons of Our Loop is complete. Here is a recap of our adventures so far:
2017: Florida Mini Loop, 590 miles / 95 days
we traveled from Stuart Florida through the Okeechobee Waterway and followed the coast of Southern Florida to return to Stuart.
2018: Bahamas and East Coast, 1700 miles / 146 days
we traveled to the Abacos and then slowly up the east coast to Cape Charles, Chesapeake Bay.
2019: Lake Champlain route, 2720 miles / 145 days
Chesapeake, Cape May to New York, up the hudson, Canada's canal systems with stops at Montréal and Ottawa, to Mackinac Island, lake Michigan, Illinois river to Mississippi river to Ohio river and Tennessee river.
45 @ anchor
48 @ free or Park walls
52 @ marinas
And so we transition from summer Trawler Trash to winter Trailer Trash
They really are Great Lakes
23 September 2019
Mackinac Island is a step back in time. Even though it is less than 4 square miles it packs in plenty of activities and historic sights. Almost completely part of the Michigan State Park system, the remaining privately owned properties are mostly adorable Bed and Breakfast Inns. No motorized vehicles are allowed, replaced by horse drawing carriages and buckboards. Mail is delivered by bicycle although I don't know what they use when snow covers the ground. Ferries run all day delivering and picking up passengers. I am posting pictures with this blog but they don't do justice to how charming this place actually is. Really, you need to visit at least once.
The Grand Hotel opened in 1887 and costs ranged from $3 to $5 per night. Now a historic property, the hotel is elegantly maintained with prices starting at $450 per person per night (we were very happy to be there by boat and could enjoy the islands at state marina rates). We enjoyed the lunch buffet and strolled along the world's longest porch. Handsome cabs lined the main entrance for those choosing not to walk or ride bicycle. While I am not sure the lunch buffet was worth $50 pp the total experience is one I would not skip.
Fudge, now we need to talk about fudge. Fudge on Mackinac Island is everywhere, kind of like goose poop in Canada but oh so much more welcome! Every imaginable flavor of Chocolate but also maple and berry flavors. It may or may not be against the law to visit here and not sample the fudge but why take the chance. And don't let me forget to mention the ice cream parlors...
After looking at the weather forecast we cut our 3 night stay by a night and ran over to Mackinaw City for fuel, laundry and provisioning so that we could head west and get tucked in somewhere before the wind started to blow. Another great town that gets many tourists in the summer. A darling main street with restaurants and tourist shops ends at the ferry dock. Friends from a park we spent time in down Florida way came by to catch up, it was a pleasure to see them again! I wish that we would have had more time there but that weather was coming and we needed to cross Lake Michigan as our boat is so small and the lake is so big.
Door County Peninsula was as charming as ever. We spent 6 days being tourists and loved every minute even if we weren't able to move as often as we would have liked due to wind and waves. This peninsula separates Green Bay from Lake Michigan and is a popular vacation area. Even this late in the year the streets were crowded and shops are doing a good business.
Alas, the big lake calmed and we ran down the coast toward Milwaukee. The first night we pulled into Kewaunee in time for the requisite Wisconsin Friday Fish Fry. The owner of the restaurant even came out to help us tie and told us we were free to spend the night. Bonus! The second day waves started to pick up again so we ducked in and spent a couple night at Sheboygan marina. Great marina, my favorite so far on the loop. Fantastic captains lounge and DeeO'gee was welcome too. A dear friend even drove up to visit and take me on a provision run. Another flat day on the lake so off we went.
Milwaukee was a wonderful stop. Many visits with friends, lunches and dinners out. I lived in Milwaukee and sailed the lakefront for several pleasant years, this was old home week. We spent a night right downtown by the Sumerfest grounds and had a magnificent sunset. Wind picked up so we moved up the river for 3 nights to Barnicle Buds Key West style restaurant and dock which was a regular stop on my 26' Pearson. What a perfect spot for visitors. Last, we moved to South Shore Yacht Club, fond memoirs of my time here. Wind kept us in Milwaukee just a couple extra days, giving us a few more days for visits. At wee hours of the morning we cast off and headed to our last stop on Lake Michigan.
Dawn had a hard time arriving with dense fog as far as the eyes could see. By the time darkness and the fog was completely gone we could see the Windy City skyline. Just before entering the harbor we were boarded by the coast guard for a routine safety check, we passed the muster! Very young officers were courteous and quick so we could continue on our way. Approaching by water the city looked even larger than all the times I had visited by land, after we picked up a mooring ball we grabbed the courtesy tender and headed to shore. Several loopers were there and we walked down a few docks to say hello, of couse there were mandatory Docktails that evening. Sunset was magnificent and our viewpoint from the mooring field produced some stunning photos.
The next morning started our journey down the river system which is another blog...