The water is greener on the other side of Lake Michigan (sometimes)

img_5359Nine Looper boats docked on the Joliet wall, and all of us stayed close to the boats just in case.  That’s too bad because one of us would’ve liked to stop by the Old Joliet Prison, where Jake Blues served a 3-year stretch before he and Elwood put the band back together.  Oh well.  Fortunately we all survived the night.

39B6FF32-B195-4E52-9D33-7252E45D2EE8Yesterday morning at 7 we peeled off one at a time like stickers from a roll.  Gotta make the first lift bridge before rush hour or you’ll be screwed for the day.

The first lock of the day was the Brandon Road Lock.  The Brandon Road Lock sucked.  It’s a huge lock and only us Loopers were in it, but they stuck Misty Pearl in the back corner.  img_5364Usually not a big deal, but these lock doors leaked to the point of absurdity.  We actually named the leak Bridal Veil Falls.  (Those familier with prior posts will realize just how clever this is.  And by that we mean not at all clever.)

Mostly the day was industrial.  Lots of smoke and factories and barges and such.  Not much pretty to see, but at least it was interesting.  And we did make a cool line of Loopers.

As we approached the second lock of the day, reality hit.   The second lock was Dresden.  The Dresden Lock sucked.  Barge traffic was heavy and nobody was interested in our plans.  So we all rafted up for a couple of hours.  Dana took the boys to shore one at a time while Doug cleaned the strainers and made lunch.

Finally they called us through, with more rafting in order.  No harm done and we were out the door.  Well, we were out the door once the very slow tug with 12 barges let us pass.

D2EF3E91-C3A3-49FD-80E1-C04F06E89240That tug with the barges is the Ralph E.  Plagge.  Very nice captain on board, but still clogging up our path through the locks.

“A wonderful bird is the pelican.  His beak holds more than his belican.”  Good stuff from Ogden Nash, and a passel of them were clumped in the Illinois River.  Crazy what you see on the Loop.

B79271F6-B352-468E-917D-F01E886E903EThe plan yesterday was to make Heritage Harbor.  Commercial traffic and mechanical issues at a lock downstream made that impossible.  Fortunately the kind folks at Spring Brook found room for all of us.  Sea Jamm.  Second Wave.  Island Girl. Corkscrew.  Compass Rose.  Sabbatical.  Someday.  Forever Young.  Free Spirit Too.  And us.  It’s actually pretty comforting to travel with a crowd of good people.


The restaurant pulled together and opened for us.  Good times.


This morning the next lock told us we might be able to get through around 9:30.  But we are the lowest possible priority.  Even below the Asian Carp.  We arrived at the Marseilles Lock at the appointed time.  And waited for 2 hours.  The Marseilles Lock sucks.  They don’t even know how to pronounce it correctly.  Pretty sure nobody from the House of Bourbon pronounced it “Mar-sales.”  Dana photographed birds to kill time.

003a2425The dudes at the lock were playing around with a submarine, claiming they needed to do some underwater surveys or something.  The cynical one of us figured it was a ruse for literally just playing around.  The kindler and gentler one of us figured they were professionals just doing their jobs.  Either way, we all stopped for a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine.  We all stopped for a yellow submarine.

We didn’t find it at all funny at the time.

9B1F45A2-B15D-4AEE-BB8C-FE34B09AF014Anyway, we got out and headed for Heritage Harbor.  The tows ahead of us made it impossible to go any further.  8.4 stinking nautical miles—but nearly 6 hours—later we pulled in to Heritage Harbor.  Cleaned Misty Pearl, sort of.  Did laundry.  Got the very thorough and moderately terrifying river briefing from Jeremy.  img_5386Filled the fresh water tank.  Another enjoyable dinner with the Looper gang.  Good times indeed.  We may split up tomorrow, but it’s been a fun run.

Not every day on the Loop is beautiful and not every day is easy.  But without a doubt every day is interesting and exciting.

Dear Abby, Dear Abby*

Since we elected to hang around Chicago over the weekend, we figured another touristy thing or two might be in order.  So up to the Signiture Lounge we went.  Dana discovered that the view from the “powder room” was best of all.

img_5338Saturday is football day.  On the way to join up with the Chicagoland Vols, Doug passed by 2122 North Clark Street.  This of course was the site where Al Capone’s boys massacred Bugs Moran’s boys on that bloody Valentine’s Day in 1929.  Now it’s a park near a retirement home.  It seems like all famous or important sites should have a plaque or something, but there’s nothing here.  img_5316Just like there’s not a single thing at the orange monster sculpture to commemorate that day truant Ferris Bueller—aka The Sausage King of Chicago—passed by it with Cameron and Sloane just one step ahead of creepy Dean Rooney.

img_5339Anyway, Doug made it to the bar.  Everyone sang Rocky Top.  Vols won.  Since the latter  is fairly unusual these days, somebody should put up a plaque.

img_5348Hey here’s a plaque.  As mentioned in our last Chicago-based post, the Columbia Yacht Club is next to our marina, with a repurposed ice-breaking ferry—the MV Abegweit—as a clubhouse.  We surmised that the club likely would be far too high-society to allow the likes of us on board.  Turns out the folks over there are pretty decent.  Paul and Suzanne—a super-duper nice couple who race sailboats and just bought a Loop boat in preparation for their own adventure—are members who read our post and invited us to tour the Abby, as she is known to those in the know.  Of course we accepted the offer.  The Abby is way cool, with awesome views.  And awesome mimosas to which Paul and Suzanne treated us.  We hope they’ll let us know when they start Looping.

The most recent excitement on A Dock was when TowBoatUS dragged over a sinking sailboat and parked her next to Misty Pearl.  Divers patched her up temporarily and they caught most of the leaking diesel fuel, but the owners understandably were distraught.  The wind apparently shredded their mooring lines and drove them into the rock wall south of us.  We gave them a bottle of wine and some chocolate but probably nothing could improve their spirits.  We guess that’s why they call this The Boat-Killing City.


Assuming the gale subsides, we’ll be outta here tomorrow.  We reached Lake Michigan on August 10, which seems like a month ago.  Wait, tomorrow is September 10?   It WAS a month ago?  That means 30% of our Loop so far has involved Lake Michigan.  No offense to you Lake Michigan, but although we’ve had some great times together we’re pretty sick of your big water and big-water problems.


*Here’s a link to the John Prine classic.

That’s why they call it The Drizzly City


img_5274Yup.  We’re still in Chicago.  The weather has caused a Looper clog in the funnel through which we all enter the river system.  No offense to Joliet, but we decided to wait here until things clear up rather than sit on the wall there for several days.  After all, we’re in a pretty sweet spot.  Walking distance to most everything we might want.

img_5289While in The Dangerous City, one is required to do touristy things.  That meant a boat tour—which we took on the one hot and muggy day—not because we’re desperate to ride on a boat, but because we wanted to check out the path through town.  On the way we literally had to dodge sparks from a dude cutting steel on a bridge above the path.  Surely that violates whatever hot-work requirements apply in Chicago.  Or maybe the dude’s uncle is an alderman or otherwise is “connected” such that he doesn’t care.  Anyway, we made it to the tour boat.

Hopefully we’ll get a time-lapse video when Misty Pearl takes the trip.

The rain started later that evening, while we were eating dinner a mile from the marina.  The artistic eye will note our unintended but visually-stunning color coordination.  And of course the city lights in the mist.

Another day brought another downpour, which was a chance to change the oil.  Along with the oil change came Chicago CSI.  Okay those probably were unrelated, but CSI—the real thing not the TV show—did block off the end of the dock.

Unfortunately the dive team staged inside a tent so as to keep nosy and bothersome people away.  We were a bit offended, since all we wanted to do was poke around and ask some questions.  The rumor on A Dock was that the search related to a missing girl, but we were gone when they wrapped up and left so we really don’t know anything.  One unconcerned local summed it all up as “It’s Chicago.”

img_5318We scored day-of-show tickets to Hamilton, which (1) was an unexpected turn of events and (2) required us to break out our best Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes.  Meaning jeans.  Hey, we live on a boat.  So after deep dish pizza, we hit the CIBC Theatre (“Theatre” being the way snobby people spell theater) with Brent and Karen.  The play was entertaining enough, but a bit fast and loose with historical accuracy.  For one thing, we doubt there was as much rapping during the late 1700s.  The founding fathers also probably didn’t dance around as much.

This morning we awoke to more light rain.  Since we were in the hood, however, we took the boyz over to the Shedd Aquarium and then back along the scenic route.

img_5314The Columbia Yacht Club clubhouse is just down the way from us.  That wouldn’t be at all interesting except the clubhouse is a ship, which is different and cool.  The Abegweit was an ice-breaking ferry before the yacht club converted her into a playroom for Chicago’s hoity-toity boaters.  The kind of people who probably wouldn’t be comfortable in a plain old “theater.”  If we had better clothes maybe we’d try to sneak in.

Saturday and Sunday look to be good days for watching football.  Surely there’s a sports bar around here somewhere.

Hey Chicago, what do you say?*

The waitress in Michigan City said that on clear days the Chicago skyline is visible from there.  We’ll have to take her word for that.  Our day was too hazy, but at least it wasn’t raining.  As we headed to Hammond we picked up the buildings with the big lens about 10 nm out.  Wooo.


764E3DF4-B98D-4164-9B4E-E871DA2B70ACAfter nearly a month here we feel competent to say that Mad Max steam punk post-apocalyptic industrial grime is to the southern tip of Lake Michigan as natural beauty is to the northern tip.  Maybe it’s good that today is Tuesday.  Tuesday is Soylent Green day.

On the way to the dirty city of Hammond we passed by the dirty city of Gary.  Doug and his buddy David once stopped in Gary after a football game—which the good guys won in an epic comeback when Jeremy Lincoln overran Notre Dame’s backup kicker’s field goal attempt but it glanced off his butt anyway—in South Bend.  The only other thing we know about Gary is that Harold Hill did not actually attend the Gary Conservatory of Music or whatever he claimed.  (As musicals go, The Music Man is no Mamma Mia.  “Trouble with a capital T, which rhymes with P, which stands for pool?”  Really?)

img_5271The marina in Hammond wasn’t necessarily the best, for us at least.  The slip they assigned us was too small.  The only restaurant within safe walking distance was in a casino.  The people, however, were great.  We topped off the fuel tanks, docked on a face, tied up neatly, and completed our end-of-cruise checklist.  Dana gave the boys their traditional end-of-cruise walk.  The manager kindly delivered a package someone mailed to us.  Two dockhands helped lower the mast for the Chicago bridges.

Ok, so what’s the weather like tomorrow?  Windy?  Rainy?  Crap, let’s go to Chicago right now.  Throw the boys back on board.  Fire up the engine again.  Disconnect the power, slip the lines, and bolt.

An hour later we could see the city a bit better.


Past the south side, which is the baddest part of town.  Up almost to the Navy pier.  Through the mooring field full of sailboats and the yacht club docks.  When we docked for the second time today, Hammond was just a bad memory, almost like it never happened.


We couldn’t be much happier with the view from our front porch, although hopefully the humidity will drop.  We guess that’s why they call it The Muggy City.




*Well a friend of ours named Steve Goodman wrote that song . . .   So we felt obliged to include it on this album.