September 20, 2007, Chi-ca-go, Chi-ca-go! ( Illinois, that is)
They call it the " Windy City ", but we only got a hint of that on our last night there before leaving Lake Michigan to begin our trek down the inland river system. We'll get into that later; but first, here's what we've been up to since our last update.
After a great anchorage at Charlevoix, MI, we went on to Traverse City where we had a wonderful meal downtown at Ciao Bella. You can guess it was Italian fare accompanied (of course!) by a lovely bottle of vino. Nothing like great food to unwind after a day on the water. Traverse City is a town with good facilities at the bottom (south) end of Grand Traverse Bay. It proclaims itself to be the "cherry capital" of North America which we could certainly believe, given all of the cherry orchards we saw on both sides of the bay as we made our way from there to Suttons Bay and Northport, where we anchored out and then dinghied in to walk about these neat little villages. The next day we were back into open water and travelled to Leland Harbor, a harbour of refuge on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. We anchored right beside the break wall inside the Marina and, although we had permission from the harbourmaster to do so, we got a few "looks" as we were the only boat anchored there and the only one flying a great big Canadian flag.
We had a good cruise across Lake Michigan on Aug. 31st. The first part going around North Manitou Island was a bit bouncy just like St. Margaret's Bay in Nova Scotia. Eventually we found our rhythm and deeper water and had a good passage to Washington Island at the north end of Green Bay. We anchored in clear water with a bunch of sailboats and had a great night. Lake Michigan, just like the other Great Lakes is an inland sea. We are starting to respect more and more what Mother Nature can throw at you when she has blowing power and fetch.lots of steep waves and unpleasant seas. Needless to say, listening to the marine weather forecast several times a day continues to be a healthy obsession!
From Washington Island we made our way to Egg Harbor along the western shore of Green Bay. On arriving there we were welcomed by Bob and Lynn Doneff with whom we buddy-boated in the North Channel. Bob even hoisted the Canadian flag on his humongous flag pole to honor our visit. The m/v Sarah Lynn III is docked right in front of their beautiful estate a few hundred yards from the Egg Harbor Town Dock and Marina.
Bob and Lynn treated us like royalty. On our first night Bob, the chef par excellence, cooked up a storm for us; on Sunday, being Labor Day Weekend, he invited friends and neighbours for his annual "end of season" party. Labor Day is pretty much the end of boating season on Lake Michigan. Later in September and October, winds from the north and west can generate some bad sea conditions and most people put their boats on the hard by the end of September.
The rest of the week was a blur of good wine and foods including a great dinner party at the Connolly's on our last day at Egg Harbor. Our wine cellar and larder is also full again as we did lots of provisioning in Green Bay, thanks to Bob's Free Car Rental. We even managed to do some maintenance and chores on the boat and witnessed a gale from the North West which bounced quite a few boats in the harbour on our last day. Luckily, we were securely tied to the town dock that night so we avoided most of the resulting wave action.
All in all, Lake Michigan and Green Bay are great places to which we want to come back and do some more exploring. This is beautiful countryside with high bluffs, little villages nestled in small protected bays and very posh estates dotting the shore. There are many parks and beaches and, more importantly, great little communities with lots of good restaurants.
On Sept. 8th, we made our way to Kewaunee, WI in flat seas under bright sunshine. The temperature had dropped significantly after the "nor-wester" had blowed itself the previous night. From Kewaunee, we had another good run to Sheboygan where we met up again with Sarah Lynn III . This lady travels much faster than we do and, running at 15 knots, could easily make Sheboygan in a day. Of course we had to have a few nice meals and some wine and get a feel for the town. Olga and Lynn even managed to fit in a "spa day" when another weather system blew through and brought too much wind and rain for us to venture out for the next couple of days.
Before the next frontal system set in, we left for Racine, WI and Sarah Lynn III went back north to Egg Harbor. We spent a quick night in Racine and then went on to Waukegan, IL for three nights. The plan was to use Waukegan as our base to visit Chicago. It worked well with the AMTRA commuter train and the free trolley cars in Chicago itself. Even so, after a long day walking miles and miles around the downtown and waterfront areas, we were so bushed we had no energy for more exploring.
Because the forecast was for 3 days of gale force winds to pick up in the next day or two, we moved the boat to Monroe Harbor in Chicago on Sept. 16th to enable us to make an easy entry to the river system from a protected mooring. Boy, were we fooled! Instead of SW winds at 5-10 knots, we had SE winds at 15 knots on the nose for the whole 36 nautical mile run. Adding insult to injury, the mooring field in the harbor was exposed enough that we and several hundred other boats were bounced all night long. Good thing we didn't have to get up for work the next day because we sure didn't sleep that night!
Despite this one night of discomfort, Chicago has to be the most enchanting American city we have visited so far. For some reason, we easterners tend to ignore the mid-west and the heartland of American industry. As it turns out, the city is a treasure of architecture, museums, parks, entertainment and restaurants. In our mind, there are two types of towns; the historic and well-preserved places (i.e. Montreal, Quebec City, Savannah, Charleston, St. Augustine, etc.) and the up-and-comers (i.e. Toronto, New York, Baltimore, Palm Beach, etc.). Of the latter group, Chicago has it all in terms of style, people-friendliness, cleanliness, green space and so on. It is certainly the most impressive city we have come across to date. It does not have the charm of old town Montreal or Quebec but beats Toronto, Baltimore, New York, Palm Beach and most other places we have visited. We will be back, by water or by land in the near future.
We are now in Ottawa ... Illinois. We spent a couple of nights in Joliet at a town dock, provisioning and chatting with other boats also going downriver. We spent a night at anchor on the Illinois River with giant Asian carps that are invading the river system and now we are sitting pretty at another FREE town dock waiting on the opening of canal locks further down river.
We have yet to run out of the toilet paper we loaded up in Halifax well over a year ago and the diesel fuel and wine seems to get cheaper the further south we get. In other words, life is good!
Send us a quick note if we have managed to entertain you for a few minutes. We'll issue another log update again in a few weeks.
Olga and Andre on board m/v Mystic Bond