8-30-09 Marine Services Corp., Dolton, IL

By the time we got up today, the 4 other loopers that were here had already left to be towed through the "carpel tunnel" which is about 30 miles from here. We've decided to wait about a week to see what transpires, hoping we can go through on our own without being towed to the tune of $600.00. The 4 boats that left had time constraints that we do not have.

We took the truck that had been left by the marina for our use over the weekend and went to the Faith United Methodist Church. The town of Dolton is by our estimation about 90% black, and that was true for this church as well. We got there early and were warmly greeted at the door. Then something really spooky happened! Rick's mother's name (prior to her second marriage) was Verna Johnson. She died in 1999. We were the only people in the sanctuary at first, so we had our choice of where to sit. We walked about mid-way down the center aisle, and Rick sort of pointed at a pew so I went in and sat down. Before sitting beside me, Rick glanced at the bronze plate on the side of the pew. Believe it or not, and this is too weird for me to make up, the plaque said "In memory of Verna Johnson"!!!

At first we thought we might be the only whites there, but by the 11:00 starting time, there were a total of about 7 whites (including us) and 30 blacks. The sanctuary was quite nice, and would accommodate over 200, so it seemed empty with less than 40 people there. The chancel choir consisted of 4 women (1 white) and 1 man.

The pastor (black) was Rev. Charles Straight. We knew as soon as he entered that we were in for a rousing service and a lot of "amens!" The first hymn was one of my old favorites (and made me remember Buzz Vorpagel), "Onward Christian Soldiers." Following a unison prayer, the chancel choir sang, and sang, and sang. After one stanza I was singing silently along with them...the words were the same over and over: "I feel Jesus in this place; Oh my soul doth burn within me." We clapped for them both before and after their number.

After another unison reading, the pastor requested that all the visitors please remain standing. That was Rick and me. We were joyfully welcomed, and welcomed, and welcomed. Then they had the "passing of the peace" and we were welcomed some more. That was followed by about 15 minutes of announcements....although small in numbers, this seems to be a church that is very active in the community. If no one volunteers when the preacher asks, he calls people by name and says "you'll be glad to do that won't you?" Next there was an altar call, which brought about half the congregation to the altar.

We were then entertained by a soloist (not a member of the choir) who really had a beautiful voice, and sang what I can only describe as a free form song. It was lovely, but had no real tune and the words, though meaningful, sort of rambled on, and on, and on. The theme was "just ordinary people." She got a rousing standing ovation.

It was just after 12:00 when the sermon began. The title was "What shall we do with this great faith of ours." It started and ended with a recording from a TV show, but in the middle the preacher gave a moving sermon. The scripture lesson was James 2:14-28, about faith without deeds. He talked a lot about modern day can people of faith allow this to go on, not only in foreign lands but in this country as well. The sermon only lasted about 20 minutes (whew!).

Then we sang another hymn ("'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus"), and then it was time to collect the offering. He spent about 10 minutes saying how much this church needed money. By the time they had met the payroll this week, there is no money left in the account. Next week they have to pay utility bills, etc., and they need money to do that. You don't want to come to church next Sunday and not have any lights or air conditioning, do you? Then the plates were passed and brought to the front. Then he reminded everyone that this is the fifth Sunday of the month, and on the fifth Sunday everyone is supposed to put in an extra $10 for "apportionment." We were then told what that money was used for. Since he had forgotten to mention that before the first offering was taken, let's take up another offering so people can put in that extra $10!! As the ushers walked down the aisle a second time holding the plates and sort of looking to see if anyone wanted to put in more money, the preacher said that wasn't the right way to do it! They were told to make sure the plates were passed to each person.

The service finally ended about 1:00, and we were invited to share refreshments with them. All the people were very nice and very welcoming. Overall, I must say I enjoyed the service and the overall experience. And yes, Rick and I did utter a few "Amen brothers!"

Our one other option for church had been a Baptist church. That one started at 10:00, and driving by that church later in the day, I imagine they didn't get out much earlier than the Methodists did!

Taking advantage of the use of the truck, we drove around a little after church and ran across a Petco store. Beamer the pyscho dog has not been groomed since we left home on May 18, so she was a little grungy looking and I had hoped to get her groomed while we waited here for the river to reopen. So we went into Petco to see if they could do her, and sure enough they had time to do her today. So we drove back to the marina and got her and took her and dropped her off for the afternoon. Psycho dog that she is, I'm always a little apprehensive about leaving her in a strange place, but when we picked her up they said she had been fine...she just wouldn't let them cut her toenails and didn't like having her face done. But she didn't bite anyone and she sure looks (and smells) better than she did.

We seem to have the marina entirely to ourselves tonight. It is very peaceful here (and the aroma of the landfill next door only bothers us when the wind blows a certain way). We're very close to the facilities and have a great wi-fi signal. So we are content to stay here as long as it takes. We expect several of our looper friends to meet us here within the next few days. All is well. Amen and amen.

08-29-09 Marine Services Corp Marina - Dolton, IL

[Rick] Once again, it is cold. Four of the loopers here have made arrangements to be towed through the carpel tunnel tomorrow. At first, we were going to go with them. But, as we thought about it, we decided to stay here for several days and see what happens. This means that we will be here for at least a week, as no decision will be made before Friday. We decided to stay for several reasons. First and foremost, our friends behind us will be arriving here the first of the week and we want to cruise and socialize with them. There is the matter of the $600 that the tow will cost. If we wait, they may just reopen the river after Labor Day. By staying, we can get a couple of nagging maintenance problems looked at and maybe even fixed. So, we are in Dolton, IL, next to Calumet, next to Chicago waiting for the Coast Guard to do testing on fiberglass boats and making a decision. The Corps of Engineers has made it clear that they are only concerned with stopping the carp, not the boaters or navigation of the Illinois River.

After deciding to stay, we moved the boat to a different slip to be closer to the land (for Beamer), to the bathrooms (for both of us), and to get a better wi-fi signal. It all worked out and now we have a good enough signal to watch our favorite TV programs on our computer. You just have to find something to fill the hours if you are to be here a week. The marina was good enough to hand me the keys to a loaner vehicle, a big stinkin’ truck, and we can go to town and church, etc. So, we are here for a while. There will be little to report.

(Betsy adds): Not a casino in sight! That’s probably a good thing! I’m soooo happy to be on the river and not the big water any more!!! The next big water is the Gulf of Mexico, and that’s months down the road.

08-28-09 Dolton, IL

[Rick] There was no blog for 08-27-09 since the day consisted of rain and very cold winds. It was awful...

We got up and made our way to Dolton, IL and the Marine Services Corp marina. This marina is on the Calumet River and about 20 miles closer to the problem area. We also figured that there would be other loopers there, and we were correct. There are at least 6 looper boats here, although the personnel form two of them have gone home. One of the great things about this marina is the price. Only .90 per foot, so we are here for about $24 per night. Several of the other loopers here have been in contact with the Coast Guard and indicate that testing is still underway and NO DECISION will be rendered until at least next Friday. So, we and the rest of the group are trying to negotiate a better rate with a tow company. Most of think $600 is profiteering and out of line. But, the tow company says it is the minimum charge. Any approved tow company can now do the job. So, we may be here for several days. That being the case, we have scheduled some maintenance for Monday.

There was one different moment on the way up the Calumet River. The O'Brien Lock is about 10 miles from Lake Michigan. The lock is 1000 feet long. The odd thing is that there are not lines, ropes, cleats to tie to to secure your boat. There are some bollards on the top of the wall, but way too far from the boat to catch. There are some ladders, 250 feet apart, to grab. We found that most boats do not secure, but just float in the middle, since the rise or fall is 2 feet or less. After the Trent Severn and the Erie, in which you must secure your boat, it was strange to not be tied at all, and more importantly, no place to tie.

08-26-09 East Chicago, IN IV

[Rick] Today was not very productive. We spent some time trying to figure out a way to get through the Carpel Tunnel (:-}). We called several places about putting our boat on a truck and transporting it by road past the obstruction. Everywhere we called; we got answering machines and left messages. No one called back. We did confirm more info about the tow and barge being used to transport fiberglass boats through the closed area. It now looks that this will be our solution. Here is the deal. You get explicit permission from the Coast Guard, pay $600 CASH, unhook your batteries, turn off anything that runs on the boat, tie up to a barge, vacate the boat, and the barge will tow you and the other boats available down the 7 tenths of a mile past the closure. Then, off you go…..Problem solved. There is only one tow company “blessed” by the CG to do this work.

In addition to our dilemma about the closure, the day was miserable. It was cold, barely into the 60s, and beginning mid afternoon, it rained the rest of the day and into the night. The forecast for tomorrow is for steady rain and more chilly temps.

We are making plans to move to another marina to be closer to the closure, just in case there is a window of opportunity to go through. We will get into the Calumet river about 10 miles from the closure, at an AGLCA sponsor marina. It has a courtesy car and some businesses nearby. We will not be so isolated and there are other loopers there. There is no casino, but that is the price we pay.

Tomorrow, rain looks to be in the forecast. There will be little to report, unless there is some break in the stalemate at the “Carpal Tunnel”.

In case you are not familiar with the Asian Carp, its jumping ability and its invasive nature, here are a some links to videos for you to check out.

Invasion effects:

08-25-09 What a revoltin’ development this is……

[Rick] The day started out with great joy. The river was to be opened at 0500. We would be able to go tomorrow, after waiting for a backlog to clear. I replaced the door latch and installed a new computer screen on the small laptop (QT Pie) that was broken back at Drummond Island. We had ordered the screen from Ebay and had it delivered to the Calumet Marine, the folks that worked on the motors. It was a beautiful thing.

ZAP. Lightning strikes. We went online to view recent notes about the river closure/opening and found that the Coast Guard had issued a document that the river will be closed until at least September 9, and maybe longer. In fact, the Coast Guard Captain indicated the river may be closed for months, years, and maybe permanently.

The real “downer” is that the note also indicates that the CG and Corps of Engineers will meet THIS WEEK to decide on testing protocols. They do not even know what they are testing, what test to do, what is considered pass or fail. It is government at its worst, all full of ego and power with no concern for the people that pay the salaries. All of this and the river has already been closed for two weeks.

Later, when the day warmed up, I turned on the Air Conditioner and it promptly cut off. I got an error code indicating that the pressure was too high. I checked and there is no water going through the system. So, we will wait for a town that has a Cruisaire dealer to look at it. It appears that will be Chattanooga, TN.

Such is the life of a looper. Pure Joy one minute and not so joyful the next. At least we get to stay here, for $30 a day, and recharge our bodies and clean up the boat.
A Spillway on the Calumet River....

08-24-09 East Chicago, IN

[Rick] Not a lot to talk about today. We got up early to be ready for the technician from Calumet Marine. He is to perform the 600 hour maintenance on the Honda Motors. Since I do not have my trailer, we used his trailer that normally carries a World Cat. He finally arrived at 1000, we took the boat out of the water and drove the 15 miles to his shop. His business is him, his wife and their two sons. They seem very competent, and as best I can tell, did a thorough job, including hooking the motors up to a specialized diagnostic computer. The diagnostics were fine. The bill, including the hauling to and fro, was $950.00. But, it has to be done. We do not want to be in the middle of the Mighty Mississippi and have engine problems, especially foreseeable problems.

While they were performing the maintenance, I spent some time cleaning the sides of the boat. Near the waterline was really dirty as this was the first time I have really cleaned the outside since we left NC, over 3 months ago. I had ordered a new door latch and lock from West Marine and had it sent to the marine shop. I will put that on tomorrow.

You are probably wondering what Betsy did all day while I was gone with the boat. Well, there is a casino about 100 yards away. Enough said.

Bet$y add$: It wa$ a great day! Trip four$!

08-23-09 East Chicago, Indiana

Betsy speaks: As looping days go, today was not a good one! This is what happens when you are under a time constraint. We needed to have the boat in East Chicago, Indiana, tonight because we have an appointment to have the 600 mile service done on the engines tomorrow morning. If we didn’t make it here for that appointment, the service man couldn’t do it until next week because they are involved in a huge boat show starting Tuesday.

From Chicago to East Chicago on Lake Michigan is just over 21 miles…sounds easy enough. Weather forecast was the best we’ve had all week: sunny and warm. But the wind has been relentless ever since we arrived in Chicago (duh! It is the “windy city”). We left our slip at DuSable Harbor, right next to the old ship that houses the Columbia Yacht Club headquarters, at about 10:30. The harbor is behind two breakwaters. As soon as we got beyond the second breakwater I knew we were in trouble. Seas were very high and were right on our beam or right behind us. It was a rollercoaster I didn’t want to ride. We went less than a mile before we turned around and headed back to our slip.

So what do we do? We can wait and get up very, very early tomorrow morning and hope the forecast which calls for one foot or less is right. But our experience with wave height forecasts has not been good. Our other option is to take the Chicago River, whose entrance is right next to our marina and is protected by the breakwater, into the Illinois River and then to the Calumet River. Then take the Calumet River back out to Lake Michigan at a location very near where we need to be. This is a total of over 60 miles (remember, it would be a 21 mile trip on Lake Michigan). This is what we decided to do after studying the charts carefully and calling the Coast Guard to make sure the river closure we mentioned yesterday is beyond where we make the turn to the Calumet River.

We certainly did not want to do the Chicago River section that goes right through downtown on a weekend, and had carefully planned not to do that. But we ended up having to do it on a Sunday and there were plenty of crazies out there. The river/canal is very narrow and there are lots of sizeable tour boats on it. We can deal with them because they know what they are doing. It is the weekend boaters in their little runabouts that have no clue how to drive that can get you in trouble. But we did the best we could and didn’t holler at anyone. Once we got out of the downtown area it was smooth sailing. There was even a pretty lighthouse where the Calumet River comes into the Illinois River. And the Calumet River was very pretty until it neared Lake Michigan at which point it became very commercialized.

We passed our first barge on the river system while on the Calumet River. Barge traffic is much lighter than usual in this area because of the river closure just south of the junction of the Illinois and the Calumet. I wonder how many hundreds of barges are in our future as we work our way down the rivers once we leave here.

We did have to go back out into Lake Michigan for a short distance to get to the marina where we’ll have the service work done, and it was still not comfortable but not as bad as this morning. Anyway, here we are at East Chicago Marina, right next to a casino where I’ll spend the day tomorrow. Rick will stay with the boat and the dog. Wish me luck!!!

08-22-09 Chicago IV

Betsy speaks: Wow! What a full day we had today. Finally we had a beautiful sunny day in Chicago, although it is still chilly outside. We caught the first bus out to the Lincoln Park Zoo this morning, and spent several hours there. It is a free zoo, and since it is Saturday, it was a crowded zoo. Although we prefer the natural habitat zoos such as the one in North Carolina, this was a nice zoo. We did see one animal that neither of us had ever seen before, a Sichuan Takin, pictured here.

We grabbed a quick pretzel for lunch before leaving the zoo, and on the way back to Millennium Park on the trolley (part of the 3 day bus pass we had purchased) we went by Wrigley Field. Then we enjoyed a long run along Lakeshore Drive, passing Oprah Winfrey’s residence, the famed Drake Hotel, and several nice “beaches” along the way.

At Millennium Park we picked up our bikes and immediately rode to the Shedd Aquarium, not far from our marina. We spent several hours there among hoards of people. As Rick said yesterday, there seems to be no recession in Chicago. Cost of the aquarium is $28 per person, and it was jammed. Although this is reputed to be the second largest aquarium (behind Atlanta) in the country, we both felt like the National Aquarium in Baltimore seemed larger.

One interesting exhibit in the aquarium was of the Asian Carp. Sorry I didn't take a picture of that most ugly fish! You may have seen videos of these fish jumping out of the water and into boats, often injuring the people in the boat. They are an invasive species that spread through the river system all the way to Florida. Extensive measures are being taken to prevent them from entering Lake Michigan via the Chicago River. We heard just yesterday that this may cause us to be stranded here in Chicago for longer than we anticipated. The Chicago Sanitary Canal, which we plan to traverse on Tuesday, is currently closed to boaters in an attempt to halt the migration of the Asian Carp. They have installed electrified grids to stop the fish, and they have amped up the electrification of the grid for the time being, thus preventing boats from going through. When we first heard of this, from the America’s Great Loop Cruising Association’s network of information, the closure was for an indefinite period of time. We did hear today that the canal is supposed to reopen on Tuesday, so we are hoping that will happen.

Tonight we rode our bikes over to Millennium Park again for
dinner and to see some of the park we hadn’t had a chance to enjoy. I must admit neither of us understand some of the modern sculpture, but we did have fun with “the bean” which reflects its surroundings in an interesting way. There are free concerts here several times a week, but we did not have a chance to enjoy that in our short stay here in Chicago.

Our bikes have been crucial here. We’re glad we had them “tuned up” a few days ago…both were having issues with the brakes. We are quite some distance away from the Navy Pier and from Millennium Park, and having the bikes has really helped us get around. There are wonderful bike paths here, and where there is not an official bike path there are wide sidewalks. So the bikes have made it much easier to get around.

Tonight we'll see more fireworks over Lake Michigan if we can stay up late enough. They're not until 10:15, and we're both exhausted from such a big day. We plan to leave Chicago tomorrow morning and head for East Chicago, Indiana, Southeast of the city of Chicago, for the 600 hour service on the motors. There we will stay at a marina next to a casino for at least two nights, so you know what I’ll be doing!

08-21-09 Chicago, IL III

[Rick] As we had purchased a 3-day ticket on the tour bus, we decided to take the neighborhood tour or Chicago’s South Side. The South Side is predominately African-American. It is very affluent, including the homes of President Barack Obama, Louis Farrakhan, Muhammad Ali, Jesse Jackson, and many others. The South side was the site of the 1893 Columbian Exposition, and only one building from that Exposition remains. That building currently houses the Museum of Science and Industry. We decided to jump off the bus and went into the museum. It is huge, including a three car train, the Zephyr, which set a speed record from Denver to Chicago in 1934. The basement houses a captured German U-boat. Tours are given on the U-boat and the Zephyr. There is huge room filled with model trains, running around a fantastic model of the City of Chicago. Betsy spent about an hour watching a baby chick pecking itself out of its shell.

For supper, we returned to the Navy Pier. We visited more exhibits that we had missed yesterday. All in all, the Navy Pier is a wonderful destination. We noticed an abundance of foreign speaking tourists. Not sure why so many. Also, since we had no pictures of the Navy pier last night, here are some from today.

Since this is a short blog, permit me to make an observation from Chicago. There is no recession in Chicago. The tour buses are full. The line at the museum was about 300 people to purchase tickets, 2 hours after the museum opened. The Navy Pier is shoulder to shoulder. The wait at The Bubba Gump Shrimp Company for dinner was over one and one-half hours. The marinas are full, and there are over 8,000 slips and mooring balls. We saw a dinner cruise loading at the pier, the boat was full and the price was $98 PER PERSON. Every cruise boat was full.

08-20-09 Chicago, IL II

[Rick] Our second day in Chicago started as so many before, raining like crazy. We waited until lunch to even venture out to catch a hop-on-and-off tour bus. We decided on the three day package that allows us to ride, hop on and off, and take the three neighborhood tours further out in Chicago. Unfortunately, we were on a double decker bus and it began to rain very hard. We did complete the whole loop trip, 2.5 hours worth and plan to go back tomorrow and get off at some places, like the Shedd Aquarium and the Fields Museum. We will probably take a neighborhood trip to the Chicago Zoo and Wrigley Field, home of da Cubs.
For supper, we rode our bikes to the Navy Pier. This restored pier is a hub of activity with all types of food and entertainment. Harbor cruise boats leave from this pier and take cruises of the lake. At Harry Carey’s Tavern, we ate a very good pizza. The prices were very reasonable. After the pizza, we strolled to the end of the pier. Reading the historical information signs, we learn that the pier was built in the early 1900s for 4.5 million. In 1995-1998, the renovation and upgrade costs over 200 million. During the war, this pier served as a training station for fighter pilots. President Bush 41 trained here. Over 200 airplanes are in the water just off the end of the pier.

The Navy Pier has a huge Ferris wheel. The current one is one-fourth the size of the original built by Mr. Ferris for the 1892 Colombian World Exposition. Each car on the original held 60 people and took one and one-half hours to complete one revolution.

On our way back down the pier, we saw a sign about a stained glass exhibit. We entered, and to our surprise, found a permanent exhibit dedicated to stained glass still open at 10PM! Chicago is famous for its stained glass, in tradition of Frank Lloyd Wright. This exhibit had a special section for Louis Comfort Tiffany, who was prolific in glass production from 1870-1920. The exhibit was made possible by the Smith family, collectors of stained glass. The exhibit is world class, is free, and open to the public to just walk in and enjoy.

We biked back to the boat about 2230, just in time to miss another downpour.

Chicago at dusk and at night:

08-19-09 Chicago

Betsy speaks: We’ve seen many beautiful sunsets, but we don’t see many sunrises. We wanted to get an early start this morning to take advantage of what was going to be our only chance to get to Chicago this week. So we got up about 5:30 and were ready to go by 6 o’clock. But we had to delay our start until 6:30 because we didn’t want to leave in total darkness. It was a beautiful sunrise over Muskegon, our final port in Michigan.

Forecast called for seas one foot or less, but upon leaving Muskegon harbor we quickly discovered the forecast was a little optimistic. Seas were easily two feet, so we debated whether to go the 110 miles to Chicago or hug the shore and pull in at another Michigan safe haven if necessary. After going about ten miles we decided to make a run for it, and we’re glad we did. By twenty miles out seas had calmed down and it was a beautifully sunny day. We put Beamy the autopilot to work at about the five mile mark and didn’t alter our course or touch the steering wheel for nearly 100 miles. In the middle of Lake Michigan seas were flat and glassy for at least 40 miles.

Many loopers go farther south on the east side of the lake and then make a crossing of about 30 miles. We decided to go ahead across today because the forecast for tomorrow is seas 4 to 6 feet, and Friday is even worse. It was also time for the 600 mile service on the motors, and Rick has arranged to have that done early next week in nearby East Chicago, Indiana. A hundred miles is easy for a boat our speed if the weather cooperates.

After quite some time with no land in sight, we were able to see the faint Chicago skyline from 40 miles away. As we neared the city, seas picked up again. The last five miles or so were a little rough, so we were glad to pull into our slip at DuSable Marina at about 12:45, but now we are in the Central Time zone so we backed our watches up to 11:45.

After a quick lunch on board we walked into town to see about taking the Architectural Boat Tour, something we were told not to miss. On our way, we passed Millenium Park where the locals were cooling down by playing in the fountain. Looked like fun!

We were able to get on a 3:45 boat and thoroughly enjoyed the one hour tour along the Chicago River. This is the best vantage point for viewing Chicago’s many skyscrapers. Their styles are varied, and many of them are really beautiful buildings. Neither of us had been to Chicago before (except for a harmonica jam camp I came to here several years ago, but I didn’t do any sightseeing then).

By the end of the boat tour the skies had clouded over and rain threatened. We decided to grab a quick bite of supper before going back to the boat. It started raining as we ate, and by the time we got back to the boat it was pouring. The deluge continued for an hour or so. Then the skies cleared and we enjoyed Chicago’s weekly Wednesday night fireworks over the harbor. This was our third fireworks display in as many weeks, but we never tire of them. My new camera has a special fireworks setting, so I took a number of pictures.

Tomorrow we plan to take one of the hop on/hop off bus tours, and the Shedd Aquarium is also on our list of things to do while here.

08-18-09 Muskegon, MI

[Rick] Today marks exactly 3 months since we left Sneads Ferry. In that time, we have traveled 2195 miles, passed through 74 locks, and purchased $5097.54 in gasoline. It has been a great ride……

Today, after 5 days in Lovely Ludington, and a lovely sunset, we felt that we just had to get some miles behind us. The weather, mostly wind related, has been terrible for the past week. Today, the waves were to be 1-2 feet, so we left at 0745 for Muskegon, 60 miles away. We made the trip in 4 hours. The last hour, the waves built up and we were in 2-3 footers for a while, but they were at a favorable angle for the most part.

Along the way, we had to bypass the town of Pentwater, MI. This small town had been recommended to us by Margaret Croft, but we just could not stop. We had to push on.

We did something today we have never done. We tied up at a marina, won’t mention the name, and before we checked in, we decided to move on. The dock was wobbly and there was a lot of rolling wake. We called another marina, got a slip, left the first place, and moved on. The new place, Harbor Towne Marina, is quite nice, steady docks, no wake, restaurant nearby, cable TV, etc. I think we made the right decision. We are in a permanent slip, and this one is named, Paradise Ain’t Cheap.

Tomorrow, the waves are supposed to be less than one foot, according to NOAA. If this is the case, we will take off across the lake to the Windy City, Chicago. The distance to Chicago is 100 miles. Tune in tomorrow to see what happens.

08-16-09 Ludington, MI

Betsy speaks: OK, OK, Rick says we’ve gone several days without updating the blog. Well, we’ve been in the same place for 3 nights, Ludington, Michigan. We decided it was time for a break from daily moving, and also, the weather has turned lousy again. Not lousy really, just windy, and waves today were reported by the fishermen that came back early as being three feet and building. Forecast calls for four feet before the day is out.

However, what a great place this is to be “stuck”. This is the nicest marina we’ve ever been in! Yet the rates are very reasonable…less than $1.20/foot including all amenities. There is a pool, hot tub, exercize room, library, lounge with plenty of sofas, two fireplaces, TV, beautiful landscaping, nice floating docks with matching dock boxes at each slip.

One of the most memorable aspects of doing the loop is the people you meet. Docked next to us here in Ludington is a wonderful man named Sid. Sid really lives in Kansas City, but spends his summers here in Ludington, along with his lovely wife Carol, at a cabin/cottage nearby that his parents had purchased many, many years ago (sound familiar?). He keeps his beautiful Tiara Yacht here at the marina, and comes here nearly every day to just polish the boat and sit and enjoy the marina and the friendly people here. Sid is an active member of the US Power Squadrons, involved in several of the same things Rick is: teaching, boat inspections, etc. I haven’t been to a Wal-Mart since leaving home nearly 3 months ago, so needless to say we took Sid up on his offer to lend us his truck for a trip to Wal-Mart. One new computer*, new digital camera and a load of groceries returned to the boat with us…Thank You Sid!!! You will be remembered!

There are lots of fishing boats here, all with scads of fishing poles sticking up. The Cabo next to us has no less than 20 rod holders, most with rods in them. And boy do they catch fish! Every time they go out they come back with coolers full of King Salmon or Steelhead Trout. HUGE fish! TONS of fish! Unbelievable!!

The marina has a state of the art fish cleaning station, complete with macerator for the bones, innards and skin. It is in use most of the day, and these folks walk away with enough fish for a year after only a couple of days of fishing.

For those that want to eat the fresh catch while it is fresh, the marina provides gas grills already hooked up and ready to use.

Like all the other towns along the Lake Michigan coastline, there are beautiful flowers everywhere and lots of parks nearby.
The Ludington park has several beautiful bronze statues. Ludington is also famous for the murals on several buildings, 12 in all. Most murals have a “hidden object” for the viewer to find. The one pictured here is a three dimensional mural that seems to move as you walk by.

Another Ludington highlight is the ferry boat that carries cars and pedestrians across Lake Michigan to the Wisconsin side. The trip takes four hours, and the cost is $77 per vehicle PLUS $74 per person one way…not a cheap way to travel, but I guess it beats driving all the way around the lake. Ludington is about halfway down the lake. The history of the ferries is interesting. It started in 1897 as the world’s first steel hulled railroad car ferry. By the 1940s this was the world’s busiest car ferry port, with several of the huge boats operating 365 days a year.

By 1980 the ferries were not being used enough to stay in business, so the ferries were sold to a couple of Ludington businessmen who tried to keep them going. However, their venture failed and the ferries seemed destined for the scrap yard. In 1992, another Ludington entrepreneur purchased the three remaining ferries, invested his own money to refurbish and improve the boats and began a new car ferry service across the lake. Proving that the ferry service still had a bright future for cars, commercial trucks, and leisure passengers, he sold the business in 1994 to three more Ludington businessmen, and today it is a very successful endeavor, running two round trips a day.

We enjoy seeing the different names on boats, especially when they are different or unique. Rest assured if your boat name has the word “sea” in it, it is not unique…we’ve seen numerous boats with names like Sea-la-vie, X-ta-Sea, Seas the Day, Sea-esta, Fanta-sea, etc. We could write a book about trite boat names. But we do see some that we get a chuckle out of. Here’s one we hadn’t seen before.

Looking at the weather report yesterday, we thought we would be here until Tuesday, and we weren’t complaining because this is such a nice place. But we do have reservations in Chicago starting next Thursday so we do need to get underway ASAP. We had extremely high winds here this afternoon, with waves breaking over the breakwater and splashing up high on the light houses. But late afternoon forecasts seem to indicate maybe the high winds this afternoon have helped push out the weather that was forecast, and now it looks like we may make it out of here tomorrow (Monday). Every looper we know has been marina-locked since last Thursday or Friday. So wish us luck!

*Now for a word about the new computer we purchased at Wal-Mart. We had not forked out the big bucks for GPS chips to cover Canada, but relied on paper charts and an inexpensive computer program for which we had the Canadian Hydrographic Service charts, similar to NOAA Charts. It worked perfectly, and we were able to have my little 8.9” computer on the dashboard along with a USB GPS receiver so we knew where we were and where we were going at all times. Our last hour in Canadian waters was our roughest part of the trip, fighting 3 to 4 foot waves coming from all directions, like a mixing bowl. About 5 minutes before we crossed into the USA, where our GPS units with US charts would have kicked back in, we took a big wave and a big bounce, and the 8.9” “cutie pie computer” bounced off the dashboard and onto the deck, ruining the LCD screen.

Fortunately these “netbooks” are very inexpensive…even with purchasing a new one we come out way cheaper than we would have if we had purchased Garmin or Lowrance chips for the Canadian waters. Also fortunately I brought all of my navigation software with me just in case something like this happened. We really don’t need the computer for charting anymore, but it is nice for each of us to have our own computer on rainy days!

08-13-09 Ludington, MI

[Rick] We had another pretty easy day. We left Frankfort bound for Ludington, MI, another small town 53 miles to the south. The waves were 1-2 feet, but lay down as we progressed. It only took 2.5 hours as we were able to average 18.5 mph. Along the way, we passed the Point Sable Lighthouse. It really looks like a North Carolina Lighthouse.

Ludington is another of the small, friendly, not-touristy towns along the Lake Michigan shore. As usual, they have an abundance of flowers, green grass, and very nice parks for recreation. There are several marinas here, and we chose Harbor View. It has everything you could ask for and all of it is well thought out and of first quality. They have a spectacular complex of restrooms, showers, lounge, laundry, library, ships store. They have floating docks that include cable TV. The wi-fi is 5 bars and very fast. So, all is good in Ludington.

We have decided to stay here at least 2 days, and kind of rest up after a week of traveling every day. Betsy will have more on Ludington tomorrow, so come back then.

08-12-09 Frankfort, MI

Betsy speaks: I have to back up a day and mention something that happened yesterday that we tried our best to forget about. Those of you who have been reading the blog since day one know that shortly after we left home there was a problem with our Florida heat pump at home that caused water to leak all over the ground level of our townhouse. The carpet in our home office was completely saturated. Our wonderful neighbors Tom and Billie Hayden, who are looking after things for us while we are gone, saw to it that the water was extracted from the carpet, the carpet was deodorized and dried with fans and dehumidifiers. The heat pump, barely a year old, was completely replumbed. There seemed to be no lasting aftereffects, and all was well.

Early yesterday morning Tom called to tell us one of the plumbing joints had come undone and this time it was not a small, slow leak like before, but a real flood of probably hundreds (or thousands?) of gallons of water. The carpet was completely saturated again!!! So we had to go through the same process again. Fortunately, all the books on two large bookcases that had to be moved the first time had not been put back, so maybe it was a little easier this time (look on the bright side). Rick has told the heating and air people, who did the plumbing as well, that he expects them to pay for the carpet and for the labor to move the furniture this time, as well as for fixing the problem.

When Rick first spoke to Tom about checking on things while we were gone, it was really meant to be just bringing in the mail. Who ever dreamed so much could go wrong!!! We couldn’t continue on this trip without a little help from our friends. Thanks Tom and Billie! We love you!

Now back to the trip. We left Charlevoix this morning and headed back into Lake Michigan. On the way out of Charlevoix we passed by the mushroom houses that Rick mentioned in his blog yesterday. Yesterday there was a picture of one of those houses from the street side. Here is that same house from the water…very exclusive!

The sun was shining and Lake Michigan was glassy smooth. Our intended destination was Leland, just over 30 miles south. Three of the other four boats we’ve been sort of hanging with had left several hours before us (they are slow, we’re fast). As we approached the turn into Leland, we decided it was such a gorgeous day we would continue on to Frankfort, another 42 miles farther along. I had charted both courses so the decision was easy. We radioed one of the other boats that was within earshot and told them to pass the word that we were continuing on and would see them in a few days. Rick was at the helm, but Beamy the autopilot did most of the driving today.

Last night I received an e-mail from a friend in South Carolina asking if we would be seeing the Sleeping Bear dunes. I didn’t know what he was talking about, so I looked them up in one of the cruising guides. I had heard of the high sand dunes we would encounter on Lake Michigan’s shore, and these are in the Sleeping Bear State Park. Sure enough, we passed them today. Thanks to Jerry’s head’s up we hugged the coastline so we could see them up close, and they are spectacular. Here’s a picture showing people climbing up and down them…they are so high the people look like ants from where we were. Rick said maybe the Topsail Beach Shoreline Protection committee should take a lesson on how these sand dunes are made!

Just past the magnificent sand dunes we came to Point Betsie Light, described as being the most photographed lighthouse on Lake Michigan. Too bad they didn’t spell “Betsy” right! I was riding on the bow as we passed, and again was amazed by how incredibly clear the water is here. In 20 feet of water I could clearly see the bottom. It’s sort of scary, because at home if you can see the bottom you are probably getting ready to hit it!

We love the protected harbors of Lake Michigan. They are well marked and so easy to navigate. Being used to treacherous inlets in North Carolina, I couldn’t picture how Lake Michigan would have such easy access to harbors. It is so nice to be in a huge body of water, and then simply come through a jettied passage into a protected, safe harbor.

Once we arrived in Frankfort I walked just a couple of blocks back to the “seashore” we had passed on the way in. Looking out over the white sand, it was really just like standing at the ocean. Many people were swimming and sunning on the beach. I stepped into the water about calf deep and it was very comfortable. I can see why people would want to summer here. It is really beautiful, and there are no sharks or crabs! And you don’t have sticky salt water on you when you come in from a swim!

Later this afternoon our friends on Pookie II arrived here in Frankfort. They had pulled into Leland and docked, then reconsidered and decided to come farther just like us on this beautiful day. They are in a slightly smaller, much slower boat, so they need to make as much progress as possible on beautiful days like this.

After dinner with Pookie, Rick and I walked back to the beach, walked out on the “pier” to the Frankfort jetty light, then sat on a bench on the beach and watched a beautiful sunset over the water. It has been quite some time since they’ve had a nice sunset apparently, because once the big red ball slipped beyond the horizon people started clapping!

Tomorrow we plan to head out again, probably to Ludington. We had thought we might stay here for two nights, but weather reports are starting to get a little bleak so we want to make progress when we can.