Central Time!

In the last two weeks, we have cruised through our last Michigan ports and entered the states of Indiana and Illinois. It was also here that we crossed into the Central Time Zone and will be on it for a long time; like until mid-November when we are back in the state of Florida. This also means we now have visited 11 states so far on this wonderful adventure. Here is what we have been up to:

Wednesday (8/26)South Haven, MI– Finally we got a good night’s sleep in a comfortable marina (North Shore). And we got a break in the weather and were able to leave Grand Haven, with morning temperatures in the mid-50s. We are not complaining as we know how hot it is in FL.

Our original intent was to next go to Saugatuck, which was a short run from Grand Haven. However, we had lost a few days due to weather in Leland and Grand Haven and were feeling the need to move further South on a day that offered a good weather window. Plus, this small artsy town (known as the Cape-Cod of Michigan) had very expensive marinas at $3/foot per night.

So, we opted for the 40+ nm cruise down to South Haven, and stayed in the South basin marina (TiKa had stayed in the North basin the night before and it required them to walk a ways in order to get into town). We were now one day behind them and would catch up to them in St. Joseph/Benton Harbor.

The entrance to this town was quite narrow and the waves were very choppy coming in through the breakwater, so Mark drove and got us safely into our slip. We arrived just before lunch and opted to eat it on the boat. After lunch we went for a quick walk through town to see the (now all too common) shops and to scope out a potential spot for dinner. Looper friends Dave & Betsy (“Fryedaze”) had also come in behind us and we agreed to have docktails in the evening.

South Haven Channel

South Haven Channel

Having fun in South Hampton Store

Having fun in South Hampton Store

When we docked we had been assisted by another Looper in the marina, so Denise went to introduce herself and bring them a boat card. Pat & George Hospodar (“Reflection”) are Gold Loopers who have published two books about the Great American Loop. Since we had not read either of the books we did not really know who they were, but recognized their names from frequent posts to the AGLCA daily forum. Denise was intending to invite them to docktails on Island Office, but instead they agreed to host all of us.

After we had spent some time in town, and doing a few things on the boat (updating blog, cataloging of pictures, chores, etc.) it was time for docktails. What is normally about a one-hour event ended up being 2 hours, and we had sufficient treats that no one was hungry for dinner. Therefore, we chose not to go out afterwards, and ended up back on the boat having popcorn for dinner. However, we did learn a lot from the Hospodars and their experiences, and we will heed their suggestions for the next portion of our adventure.

Betsy & Dave Frye ("Fryedaze")

Betsy & Dave Frye (“Fryedaze”)

George & Pat ("Reflection")

George & Pat (“Reflection”)

Later Mark went over to see Dave (“Fryedaze”) to share navigation technology tools. He learned of a new website (www.marinetraffic.com) to track location of other boats (if they have AIS – Automatic Identification System). In fact, you can see all boats all over the world with this free tool. We are going to try and find a way to link it on our blog posting so you can follow us.

We really like this small town and the parks along the harbor walk that takes you to the South Pier light. Additionally, the marina accommodations are very nice, including a boater’s lounge with a microwave and coffee always on. There are bar b que grills and a very nice covered picnic area which provide a protected place to get off the boat. Too bad we couldn’t have been here instead of Grand Haven when the weather was so awful.

Here are some pictures from our short stay in South Haven:

Downtown main street

Downtown main street

Mural on downtown building

Mural on downtown building

Downtown Park

Downtown Park

Sculpture near City Hall

Sculpture near City Hall

South Haven Marina - South Basin

South Haven Marina – South Basin

Duck Nap Time

Duck Nap Time

Marina office

Marina office

Harbor from the bridge

Harbor from the bridge

IO in marina near South Haven

IO in marina near South Haven

Thursday (8/27)St. Joseph, MI– BRRR – The bad weather was gone, but the cold weather has arrived. It is fall in Michigan – or nearly so. We have noticed our mornings are cooler and a local woman told us that she saw squirrels already burrowing acorns (yes they are starting to fall off the trees). And then there are the tell-tale signs of fall: leaves are falling off trees and some are even turning yellow.

Temp in South Haven

Temp in South Haven

Before leaving South Haven Denise managed to get in a short run out towards the lighthouse and back 2x, and around town. Because it was a short cruise to St. Josephs (20+ nm) we didn’t leave until Mark had a chance to deal with some client issues. Once underway it only took about 90 minutes, and the water on Lake Michigan was very calm with less than 1 foot waves. This is the way we like it. We were also able to bring up the new website we learned about from Dave, and we started tracking many of our looper friends who were behind us by a day or two.

On our way to St Joseph's

On our way to St Joseph’s

Of course when we pulled into the marina, Tim and Mark (the younger) from TiKa were there to help with the dock lines. They had spent 2 night in St Joseph and were awaiting our company. Then In the early afternoon Looper friends Betsy & Dave (“Fryedaze”) pulled into the slip next to us. We had been expecting them as we had passed them while in route and knew they were not far behind.

IO at West Basin - St. Joseph's

IO at West Basin – St. Joseph’s

We had the marina courtesy driver take four of us into town (on the other side of the river) so we could see what it had to offer.

Denise in town

Denise in town

Mark in town

Mark in town

In addition to the typical t-shirt shops, surfing shops, vinegar & oil shops, and spice shops, they had a wine tasting room for White Pine winery. We decided to go in and give this Michigan winery a chance to delight us. We shared a tasting and found several that we thought would be fun to have, so we purchased a few bottles to take home.

Wine Tasting with Tim & Karen

Wine Tasting with Tim & Karen

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting

We continued walking around the park that overlooks the water and harbor until it was time for the marina to come back and get us.

Another perk of this fine marina (besides the courtesy driver) was free laundry. Since Denise did 4 loads when we were in Grand Haven, we really didn’t have much to do. However, Mark wanted to have fresh smelling shirts to wear to the client site next week, so we took advantage of this benefit and did a quick load.

Marina Picnic tables

Marina Picnic tables

St. Joseph’s is a working town; not just a touristy beach area. There is a big cement plant right on the water east of the marina, and there is the Whirlpool Technology Center located within a mile. In fact, the Whirlpool Corporate offices are located in Benton Harbor; the sister town that is adjacent to St. Joseph.

Of course no night would be complete without docktails with our Looper friends. So, we got together at the picnic tables near the marina office and boaters lounge to share appetizers and drinks. Also, because the marina was so far from the downtown restaurants, we had previously decided to get Chinese take-out for dinner from Chan’s. When we were in town earlier in the day we went by the restaurant and confirmed that they would deliver to the marina. So, we put in a multi-family order and it was delivered on time and without any issues. The food was good and everyone got their fill. The best part is there is plenty left over for another meal.

Chinese Take Out with Loopers on TiKa & Fryedaze

Chinese Take Out with Loopers on TiKa & Fryedaze

Here are some pictures from St. Joseph’s:

Sculptures in town

Sculptures in town

Fountain in park

Fountain in park

Friday (8/28)Michigan City, IN – Another cool morning greeted us, although not quite as cool as yesterday. We left St. Joseph’s and had an uneventful 2 hours to move the boat 31 miles to Michigan City, Indiana. We now entered our 11th state and the Central Time zone. Yes, even though most parts of Indiana are on Eastern Time, this little corner of the state is on Central time.

Denise prepping for dockage

Denise prepping for dockage

This gated marina is quite large and is located right near the entrance to Lake Michigan. There are lots of boats here from Indiana, Illinois and Michigan, with several live-aboard boaters. This includes the gentleman who is the after-hours security guard for the marina and he is just a few slips away from our boat. So Denise is happy and feels like she will be safe here next week while Mark is away on business.

Michigan City Marina Office

Michigan City Marina Office

Marina Office

Marina Office

The sky was overcast all morning, with rain threatening later in the day. But, we were able to get some chores done in the afternoon. Nothing exciting, just the normal boat stuff: changing water filters and then putting water on the boat (Denise), then washing the whole boat down (Mark).

Scrubbing IO

Scrubbing IO

The Denise (AKA “social director”) coordinated docktails for the evening. It was a good group with our friends Tim, Karen & Mark (“TiKa”) and Becky & Dave (“Fryedaze”) as well as new Loopers Lola & Terry (“Sunny Daze”). We all discussed our plans for making it to Chicago and going down the rivers, but all are leaving at different times. It looks like Denise will be watching over the boats Fryedaze and TiKa while they attend to land visits for the next few days.

It was leftover dinner on board the boat for us, as we made plans to enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Saturday, (8/29)Michigan City, IN – We woke up to sprinkles and a day filled with rain off and on. Nothing exciting was going to happen in the marina today as the weather was too terrible for people to enjoy the outside. For most of the morning we stayed in the boat and did some office work; Mark had to get ready for the visit to his client.

Later on Mark and Dave (“Fryedaze”) had Enterprise come and get them together as we both were getting rental cars. It was a coordinated effort that the rental car company appreciated.

In the early afternoon the rain had stopped for a while so we went and explored the old lighthouse museum that is part of Millennium Park near the marina. It is quite a ways from the water now, but in the day when it was manned by a female lighthouse keeper there was water all around it.  The story of the restorations this lighthouse has gone through is quite interesting and you learn more here.

Historical Lighthouse

Historical Lighthouse

Historic Lighthouse

Historic Lighthouse

Park near lighthouse

Park near lighthouse

Top of Lighthouse

Top of Lighthouse

Marina from top of lighthouse

Marina from top of lighthouse

After that we took the car and drove around town. We first stopped at the Farmer’s Market to see what they had. It was more of the same veggies and bread stuff that we really didn’t need, and they were about to close up. However, we did meet a French chef who had a booth selling all types of breads, cheeses, quiche & pate. We tried a taste of his pate and decided it would make good docktail hors-d’oeuvres so we purchased a small amount. Come to find out he owned two restaurants in Chicago, but has recently closed one.

After the market we drove through the downtown area, which is about 40% occupied with shops and restaurants. There is little to offer here, and there is not even the touristy shops we have frequently seen in the other beach towns along the Lake Michigan coast. They do, however have a “Premium Outlet Mall” with all the usual outlet stores (Ann Taylor, Nike, Gap, Ralph Lauren, etc.). We really don’t need anything so we just drove around to see which stores were there.

When we left the outlet mall we came across an old building that was labeled “Lances Old Fashioned Meat Market” and decided to stop in and see what they had. This place is like and amusement park with tons of items hanging on the walls, many that are political in nature. We met Lance, the owner and spent quite a bit of time talking to him about our adventure. He has had several Loopers come in and he has even loaned them his car before. He has quite a local following and we really enjoyed talking to him. Of course we purchased some fresh made jerky and “snack sticks” from him.

Lance at meat market

Lance at meat market

Lances Meat Market

Lances Meat Market

Afterwards we drove the road that runs north from the marina up the coast past the Zoo and through an area called Long Beach (nothing like the one in California). It is a residential beach house area and we saw some magnificent homes right along Lake Michigan.

When we got back to the marina we ran into Tim and Mark (the younger) who were headed to “Overboard” a restaurant that shares the parking lot with the Marina. Karen was not feeling well and they invited us to join them, which we did. It was an unremarkable meal, but we had salads and couldn’t really judge on the food quality.

Overboard Restaurant

Overboard Restaurant

Sunday (8/30)Michigan City, IN – Side trip to South Bend, IN – Today was a crazy but fun day. Since we had a rental car we wanted to take advantage of it and go see the University of Notre Dame. We got on the road by 8:15 with anticipation of driving the 50 minutes and being there in time to park, walk, and make 10:00 mass at the Basilica. The only problem was we forgot about the time change; they are on Eastern Time and we lost an hour. Unlike on I-10 in the FL Panhandle, there was no sign on the highway advising you of the change, and of course we didn’t think about it. The guard at the campus gate advised us that there was another mass at 11:45, so we made plans to go then – but we had time to kill.

Entering ND Campus

Entering ND Campus

So we used the time to go to the Costco that was located 6 miles from campus. We had previously planned to go after mass, but since we had the time we took advantage of it. We got a few food staples we know we wanted to take with us on the western rivers, and wanted to buy some more alcohol, but alas they are not allowed to sell it all on Sunday and could not complete that purchase.

We then drove back to campus and went to mass. It was very moving as the choir at this mass is the student choir and there were about 50 of them, including the musicians (playing violin, keyboard, organ, flute, etc.). But more inspiring was the place was full of students all of whom sang and participated enthusiastically in the mass. Afterwards we walked around the Basilica and was in awe at the beauty in the place.

Basilica

Basilica

ND Bascilica

Notre Dame Basilica

Ceiling in Mary's chapel

Ceiling in Mary’s chapel

Organ in Basilica

Organ in Basilica

We then walked the campus grounds including the “Grotto”; a replica of the one in Lourdes, France. Here there was an opportunity to light candles and pray in an outdoor setting. While we were there, no less than 10 people (mostly students) came to pray and light a candle (at $2 each) or just to pray.

Lourdes Grotto Replica

Lourdes Grotto Replica

We walked around to the Knute Rockne Memorial Building (really a terrific athletic facility for students) and saw the trophy cases with many of the memorabilia and tribute to all the athletics at ND.

Rockne Memorial Bldg

Rockne Memorial Bldg

We also drove around to see the stadium, but were not able to get close due to construction. They are expanding it and I am sure more folks will now be able to see “Touchdown Jesus” from their seats on Saturday afternoons.

Before leaving town we stopped by Bonefish Grill for a delicious late lunch/early dinner. It was our first chain restaurant (besides Panera) in many months!  We also did a drive through St. Mary’s College across the parkway from Notre Dame.

St Mary's sign

St Mary’s sign

Conference Center at St. Mary's

Conference Center at St. Mary’s

We then drove back to the marina and got Mark packed up and then on his way to spend the work-week at a client in Wisconsin.

Monday, (8/31) through Friday (9/4) – Michigan City, IN – Because Mark was away, not much adventuring was done. In fact, Denise spent most of the week doing boat chores. The list was long as we had been moving the boat so much there was little time to address some of the bigger cleaning needs since we left New York. In addition to doing laundry, Denise also polished all the wood inside and (most all) the stainless steel outside; cleaned & polished the refrigerator; vacuumed the entire boat, including under seat cushions; removed ink marks from the salon cushions; sewed up a hold in a pillow; ordered new boat cards and ordered a banner for the back of the boat. She also managed to get in 3 days of running and a bike ride to get a pedicure. Ah yes….and then she also cataloged more than 200 pictures that had been taken in the last few days.

Sculptures near river park

Sculptures near river park

On Monday night, many Looper boats came into the marina so we had a big group for docktails. In addition to our friends Terry & Lola (“Sunny Days”) whom we met in Pentwater, there was Eunice & John Wilcox (“Harmony”) whom we had met in Killarney; Ric & Kitty and their Kiwi friends (“Southern Comfort”) we locked with on the TSW; Larry & Flora (“Panda Bear”); Dave & Sue (MAÑANA); and Bill & Kellirae Boann (“Ocean Dancer”) who are starting their Loop adventure from here on Labor Day.

Looper Docktails

Looper Docktails

Our friends on TiKa left on Wednesday morning and headed to Chicago and then down the river. We hope to catch up with them later this month on the rivers when we both are back from our mutual travels back home.

On Friday afternoon Mark got safely back to the boat a little later than planned due to traffic around and out of Chicago. For dinner we grabbed some pizza (for the second time) from Tin City Pizza, located right at the marina. It was Chicago-style and was delicious so we didn’t mind eating it more than once!

Tin City Pizza

Tin City Pizza

Saturday (9/5) – Chicago, IL – We awoke in anticipation of leaving Michigan City and heading to Chicago. Finally, we would be getting off Lake Michigan. However, before we could finish breakfast the first of several thunderstorms rolled in and kept us on the dock. We spent the whole morning watching one squall line after another pop up and move over the southern part (only) of Lake Michigan, keeping us from moving. The rain was not the issue, it was the horrendous lightening. This was FL-style thunderstorms!

Finally, around 2:00 we got a break between storms and headed to Portage, Indiana where we had identified a cheap fuel stop at Marina Dunes. We had to wait 45 minutes just to get on the fuel dock; it is Labor Day weekend and all the boaters are on the water – especially now that the storms were clearing out.

Marina Dunes

Marina Dunes

Eventually we got fueled up and were on our way. It took us another 2 hours to make it through the Chicago Harbor and tie up to the slip at DuSable marina. In the process, we crossed into Illinois making this our 12th state.

Sunset over Chicago

Sunset over Chicago

As we entered the marina we passed by two yacht clubs (Chicago YC & Columbia YC), both had Looper boats in it that we knew. When we entered DuSable we saw lots of Looper flags and immediately spotted our friends Sid & Evelyn (“Something Special”). We stopped by their boat briefly to say hello and then we went off to go get dinner, making plans to connect with them again. We also ran into Loopers Kenny & Kathy (“No Zip Code”) whom we met originally in Deltaville, VA and saw along the Chesapeake, but had lost track of them since.

Some local boaters on our dock told us of a great hamburger joint, so we walked up the Riverwalk along the Chicago River and got a burger at Chicago Burger Company. It was delicious and hit the spot! We sat outside along the river and watched all the tour boats, private boats, kayaks and ferries coming and going. Many were heading out to the lake so they could watch the fireworks scheduled for later in the evening. It was pure Saturday night craziness.

Chicago Burger Co

Chicago Burger Co

Dinner at Chicago Burger Co

Dinner at Chicago Burger Co

Trump Tower

Trump Tower

Instead of going back to the boat right away, we adventured to the Navy Pier and see what it was all about. Neither of us had been here before, despite several trips to Chicago in the past. To us it was as commercial as ever and we felt it was just like Downtown Disney or Universal’s City Walk; complete with their own “Margaritatville” and “Bubba Gump Shrimp Co”. We took a few pictures, bought a magnet, and headed back to the boat.

Navy Pier

Navy Pier

Skyline from Navy Pier

Skyline from Navy Pier

Chicago River & Skyline

Chicago River & Skyline

Shortly after 10:00 pm, the fireworks show started. Denise stayed up to watch, but Mark was tired and went to sleep. We were planning an early start tomorrow and he needed his “beauty rest”. The show was terrific and the reflection of the fireworks off the downtown buildings was spectacular. A perfect ending to a day that started so not-perfectly.

Fireworks

Fireworks

Sunday (9/6) – Chicago, IL to Joliet, IL – We originally wanted to leave the marina by 7:00 am, but changed our plans right away. We had wanted to go to mass on Saturday evening, but we got into the marina too late to make the Saturday evening mass at Holy Name Cathedral. However, they had a 7:00 am mass on Sunday. So we took a taxi as it was too far to walk, went to mass in one of the most beautiful churches we have been to thus far. The mass had no signing, and most of the attendees were local, although there were a few other tourists as well.

Holy Name Cathedral

Holy Name Cathedral

Holy Name Cathedral

Holy Name Cathedral

Pipe Organ - Holy Name Cathedral

Pipe Organ – Holy Name Cathedral

After mass we took a taxi back to the marina, but the driver was unable to get us as close as we wanted because of road closures; there was a Half Marathon race being run. We had to walk the last half mile to the marina, passing the Art Institute and enjoying the bike/running/walking path along the shoreline as a Chicagoan would at 8:00 on a Sunday morning.

Chicago Theater

Chicago Theater

Chick Fil A in downtown

Chick Fil A in downtown

Art Institute

Art Institute

Once back on the boat we untied the lines and left the marina with our first destination the Chicago lock. This is the gateway from Lake Michigan to the Chicago River and is a small drop down (4 ‘); a piece of cake after the locks of Lake Erie and the TSW!

Entering Chicago Lock

Entering Chicago Lock

Entering Chicago Lock

Entering Chicago Lock

Downtown Chicago from boat

Downtown Chicago from boat

Once we got through the lock we entered the river and had it almost all to ourselves. There were a few tour boats positioning for the start of their day, but almost no one else, and none of the craziness we witnessed the night before. The view was awesome and we were thrilled to be able to take our boat through the city. Cross another item off the “Bucket List”.

River tour boats

River tour boats

Sights along the river

Sights along the river

Wrigley Building

Wrigley Building

Parking solution

Parking solution

DSCN4097c

Merchandise Mart

Boeing Building

Boeing Building

Water Taxis

Water Taxis

Once out of the city, the river becomes very industrialized and very rural. For most of the day we encountered little traffic and enjoyed the ride, albeit at a slow (no wake) pace. We saw rowers and kayakers, and a few other small local pleasure craft.

Kayaking Chicago River

Kayaking Chicago River

Rowers in River

Rowers in River

Railway bridge - waiting

Railway bridge – waiting

Eventually we caught up to a familiar catamaran named “Sweet Sensation” – Loopers (Chris & Kevin) we met on the Hudson River in NY. They are a British couple who have friend Graham aboard. We had lost track of them in Peterborough, ON and only now got to see them again.

Shortly after this rendezvous, we approached a tug pushing several barges (generically known as “a tow”) and it was slow going after this. We were entering the “Fish Barrier” and there was no way to pass the tow. We had to wait for him to get through it, and then once we were through, we were able to pass him.

Negotiating between tows

Negotiating between tows

The “Fish Barrier” is an area in the river that is electrified and its intent is to keep the Asian Carp from getting into Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes. It is quite an interesting thing that PETA would probably have a cow about, but few people know their tax dollars are going to this. You can learn more about this interesting engineering marvel here.

Electric fish barrier sign

Electric fish barrier sign

Once past the fish barrier it took us 45 minutes to get to the Lockport Lock; a whopping 5 miles. There was some tow traffic and many barges that forced us into a no-wake situation. Once at the lock we had to wait 45 minutes for already full down-bound to go down, then the up-bound traffic, then we got to go in with “Sweet Sensation”.

In Lockport Lock

In Lockport Lock

Leaving Lockport Lock

Leaving Lockport Lock

The locks here are unlike any other locks we have experienced. They are HUGE as they are designed for commercial tows. The tows have priority, move slowly, and sometimes the barges they are hauling have to be broken apart to go through the locks, then reassembled once on the other side. This can mean lots of delays and it is difficult to plan on how long it will take to get anywhere. We had been warned of this and were concerned about making it to Peoria by Tuesday night. So, we went into contingency planning mode and identified a marina in Ottawa that can take us should we not make as far as we had planned.

Finally at 2:30 got through the lock and headed towards Joliet, IL a place we wanted to get past. However, we were hot (it was 93 degrees) and tired. We had been on the water since just after 8:00 am and the sun had cooked us all day long. To add to our decision we noticed that the tow that was in front of us at the Lockport Lock was now entering the next (Brandon Rd) lock which is just past Joliet. So we knew we would have to wait on him again, and we would still have to travel another 13 miles before we could a place to stay for the night. Since the wall at Joliet was free, it was an easy call. We pulled up to the wall at 3:00 and called it a day!

Tow passing the wall at Joliet

Tow passing the wall at Joliet

We are sure Joliet is a nice town, but we never really experienced any of it. We had been trying to connect with one of our old clients from the Chicago area who was considering driving to meet us for dinner, but we ended up cancelling that for good reason; all the non-fast food restaurants were closed on Sunday or closed earlier in the day. There was no place for us to go and it wasn’t worth his time to make the drive. The only thing really within walking distance was a Harrah’s Casino, but we were too tired to even consider that. So we ate leftovers on the boat, had a beer with Kevin & Chris (“Sweet Sensation”) and crashed very early. In fact, we were so tired it is the only place on the trip that Denise did not get a picture of our boat for the night.

Monday (9/7) –LABOR DAY – Joliet to Starved Rock Marina – Along with Loopers on Sweet Sensation and Southern Comfort, we left Joliet at 6:00 am and immediately got into the first lock (Brandon Rd).

Brandon Rd Lock

Brandon Rd Lock

Sweet Sensation leaving Brandon Rd Lock

Sweet Sensation leaving Brandon Rd Lock

This built our confidence and had us thinking that we would be able to make good progress through the Illinois River and get closer to Peoria. We were sorely disappointed when we had to stop at the Dresden Lock and wait; originally told it would be 2.5 – 3 hours ended up being 4 hours. We had to tie to a huge circular cement piling (called sills) designed for use by the tows which are very difficult to reach from the deck of a pleasure craft. There were only two places available, so we rafted Southern Comfort to us while Sweet Sensation tied to the other piling. It was hot and humid, but we were thankful for the cloud cover that stayed with us all day.

Dresden Lock

“Sweet Sensation” tied to a sill at Dresden Lock

Southern Comforted rafted alongside

Southern Comforted rafted alongside

Once through the lock we cruised down the Illinois River passing many pleasure boaters and jet skis. We were grateful that most of the tows were not around as it would have been even more treacherous navigating the narrow parts of the river. We also chuckled about all the “SPORES” on the water, and fully understood what our Looper friend John P (“Endeavour”) meant when he told us this term in Solomons, MD. (SPORES = Stupid People on Recreational Equipment).

Labor Day SPOREs

Labor Day SPOREs

Near Morris, IL

Near Morris, IL

We had made a decision that if we could get through the Marseilles Lock by 4:00 pm we would push ahead to Starved Rock marina and stay there for the night. This would give us about 15 miles advantage over staying in Ottawa; the typical Looper stop at this point. So we powered ahead of our other Looper friends, got to the Marseilles lock just as they were pushing out the first part of an up-bound split tow. This worked to our advantage as they were getting ready to lock down empty to get the second part of the split tow. As a result, there was no wait and we were all along in the lock, out of it by 3:30, and made our way through Ottawa.

Marseilles Lock

Marseilles Lock

In doing so we passed the town cemetery that was right along the water and had a statue of William D. Boyce,  founder of the Boy Scouts of America.

William D. Boyce statue - Founder BSA

William D. Boyce statue – Founder BSA

We then continued on for the next 10 miles until we made our way to Starved Rock marina as hoped. We also cancelled our contingency plan with the marina in Ottawa and it was likely that we would make Peoria on Tuesday.

Starved Rock Marina

Starved Rock Marina

Starved Rock Marina

Starved Rock Marina

After very refreshing showers and a well-deserved cocktail, we went to the restaurant that is located at the marina for a pretty decent affordable marina. This is definitely a “locals” place and it reminded us of our home marina (Harbortown) in Merritt Island and the restaurant/bar they have there.

Chotzche at Captains Cove

Tchotchke at Captains Cove

Wall at Captains Cove

Looper friendly wall at Captains Cove

Although some stay here, there were no Loopers to socialize with at the marina. But, we didn’t care as we were exhausted and wanted sleep more than anything. It had been another very long and hot day. Fortunately, there was cloud cover all day, and the rain was all around us but we never got any. Life is good!

IO at Starved Rock

IO at Starved Rock

Tuesday (9/8) –Starved Rock Marina to Peoria, IL – Learning from yesterday, at 6:00 am Denise immediately called the lockmaster at the next lock (Starved Rock Lock). As we only had one lock to go through today, we were hoping to get through it early and be on our way to Peoria. The Lockmaster advised he had two tows in front of us and therefore it would be at least 2.5 hours. He thought he would get us in around 9:00 and so we said we would be there by 8:30 and he said that would be fine. We left the marina just after 8:00 and cruised the 2 miles, passing two tows along the way; one underway and one waiting before the lock. When we called the lockmaster for tie-up instructions he advised it would be at least 2.5 hours wait and advised we tie to the sills on the dam side of the lock. Of course we were not happy about this as we could have stayed at the marina, but we didn’t complain and tied up as instructed.

Cleat on top of sills to tie to - Starved Rock Lock

Cleat on top of sills to tie to – Starved Rock Lock

Shortly after we arrived several other pleasure boats arrived, including a Fleming 55 (“Otter”) which we had heard about from our friends on TiKa. All of us were either tied to one of the sills or were motoring in place, which was fine for a while, but then the Army COE barge that was parked beside the dam needed to leave, we were asked to move out of the way. Of course all this happens about the time that the down-bound tow we passed previously started to approach the channel before the lock. It got very crowded and we watch the barge negotiate all around this. After they got out of the way, we called the lockmaster as to where we should be and he told us to tie back up where we were (which we did). The Lockmaster is in charge so it behooves you to do what he suggests as he can decide to not let you in the lock at all.

About the time we got retied to the sill, the skies opened up and a horrendous storm came through. We watched one of the boats that had decided to “motor in place” get blown all around until they got smart enough to tie to one of the sill walls. There is a saying in boating: “You are either the show or watching the show”. We all watched this guy and if it wasn’t dangerous, it would have been a hilarious comedy routine.

Finally, at 12:30 we were allowed into the lock with all the other pleasure boats. We had waiting 4 hours at the sill and 2 hours in our marina just to get through this lock. We were happy to leave it behind.

Starved Rock Lock & Dam

Starved Rock Lock & Dam

It took us another 3 hours to cruise down to Peoria where we had reservations at the Illinois Valley Yacht Club (aka “IVY”).

Illinois Valley Yacht Club

Illinois Valley Yacht Club

Once we were tied up and settled the boat, we were greeted by several other Loopers who advised of docktails at 5:30 on the yacht club Veranda. It was a long day of over 50 miles and a four-hour wait at the lock; we were ready for docktails. As the club (normally closed on Mondays) had been opened for the Labor Day holiday, they were closed this day. But, the Loopers have clout here, and so the restrooms and laundry facilities were unlocked (24/7) and we had run of the place. It is by far one of the nicest facilities we have stayed at and the bathrooms/shower facilities are now #2 on the list of favorites.

IVY Marina

IVY Marina

There were at least 5 other Looper-couples, none of whom we had met before. Additionally, the boats “Plane-2-Sea” and “TiKa” were in the marina, but their owners had left the boats for a few days.

Loopers Jim & Mo "Gemini"

Loopers Jim & Mo “Gemini”

After docktails, three of the couples walked up the street with us to “No Wake Zone”, the only local bar/restaurant near IVY. We happened upon “Trivia Night” (seems to be a mid-western bar craze) and our group joined in the fun while waiting for the food to arrive. Like in Charlevoix, we were not the winners, but we sure had fun guessing all the questions.

No Wake Zone Bar & Grill

No Wake Zone Bar & Grill

We ended the evening with good wishes for all to travel safely and hopeful we will catch up on the rivers in the coming days. But for us, tomorrow begs an early morning flight home and time to go celebrate our 26th wedding anniversary.

IO at IVY

IO at IVY

We will return to the boat on Sunday, September 13th. Stay tuned for more adventures.

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