I’ll get to the main topic in a minute, but first an update on our location… We crossed the Lake from Frankfort to Algoma on Thurs 9/2 and then made a succession of stops at Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Port Washington and Racine. The marinas were fine, but mostly filled with commercial and sport fishing boats rather than sailboats and leisure craft. We missed the smaller, more picturesque and convenient towns on the north western MI shoreline (Northport, Charlevoix, Leland, Frankfort, etc). Grocery stores thus far in WI have been miles away near I-43 or on the far outskirts of towns.
We stayed 4 nights in Racine and rented a car to make visiting family and restocking supplies easier. My 93-yr old mom, my aunt, Megan and family and Madison friends visited us at the boat and it was great fun. Today we headed to Winthrop Harbor IL and our next destination is Belmont Harbor (adjacent to Lincoln Park north of the Chicago loop) where we’ll take down our mast and bimini to get under all 22 bridges going thru downtown Chicago enroute to Joliet IL (via the Illinois River) on Thursday.
I am feeling somewhat ambivalent about saying farewell to the Great Lakes (until next year). The vistas, shoreline scenery, sunrises and sunsets, and multitude of destination options have been spectacular. But the need to be constantly aware of the wind/weather/waves and make daily decisions regarding “go or no go”, and dealing with Zeke’s anxiety on rough seas has been stressful.
Some have compared our travels to a 4-month “road trip” but it is definitely not comparable with respect to heeding weather warnings, having confidence in (but constantly monitoring and listening to) your boat’s mechanical performance or with respect to “drive time”.
We start the day heating water for our pour-over coffee and listening to NOAA marine forecast, checking several marine weather websites, making a decision whether to move on or stay put and checking fluids, clamps, belts, etc before turning on the engine. While enroute, we lift up floor boards and look at spots where we’ve fixed leaks, repaired or replaced hoses, check various engine parts and the stuffing box with an infrared temperature gun and make sure the bilges aren’t accumulating water every 30 minutes or so. AAA can come to your rescue if you pull over on the roadside, but safe pullover spots out in 400 feet of water in Lake Michigan or Superior may be miles away. We do use “auto-pilot” at times but one of us is always at the steering wheel watching for other boats, fishing buoys and off-shore shoals.
Finally, we usually travel only 4-5 hours per day, which means we’re almost always at our destination by 2pm. This gives us several hours to walk and explore new towns nearly every day. It’s a rare day when my Fitbit registers less than 12-13,000 steps! Whether we have a late afternoon brew on the boat or at a new brew pub, or whether we eat out or dine in, we are enjoying the trip, meeting new people and learning something about the boat, our surroundings or ourselves every day.
The next portion of our journey, “the Rivers” -Chicago, Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, TomBigbee, etc) may have fewer weather issues and destination choices, but we suspect the enjoyment and learning experiences will continue!