Thursday, September 11, 2008

Racine, WI, to Ottawa, IL

Wednesday, September 10 - After a nice, long stay in Racine we were ready to hit the waters again. During our eleven days here we took care of a lot of "household" chores and Wayne changed the oil (major deal!). We rented a car and did some provisioning. Then Wayne drove me to O'Hare Airport in Chicago on Sept. 4 and I flew over to Raleigh to visit with Dave, Heather and Alex.

(One of the cute things Alex did while I was there: He has several "blankies" now that the pacifier is gone. Some are baby blanket size and some are really small, hand-held size. One day he picked up my eyeglasses case and found the little slick, microfiber cleaning cloth inside. "Grandma's blankie!" he beamed!)

Racine was a nice place to relax for a while. Reef Point is a large marina and attracts a lot of boaters from Illinois for the summer months. Things really died down after Labor Day weekend and we had the marina laundromat all to ourselves!

The downtown area is nicely done and seems to be making a go of it, unlike some. Nice public library, right near the water.

One day we took our dinghy out and down the Root River through town. It was one of the many beautiful weather days we had there and perfect for seeing the city from the water.

On another day we drove up to Milwaukee and took in the sights. Looks like a place we'd like to visit some day. Bob Kanuth had told us about the art museum there beside the lake that has a wing-like structure on the roof that shifts slowly around during the day to shade the building and collection.

As we left on Wednesday, September 10, the wind was blowing on the higher end of the forecasted 10-15 mph. We were hoping to go all the way down to Chicago today, about 57 miles from Racine harbor. If we needed to bail out we'd stop at a large park marina located mid-way.

Well, as has been the case with many of our days on Lake Michigan...this was an uncomfortable day on the water. Not threatening in any way, just long, low waves of about 2-3 ft. (during the first part of the trip) then 1-2 ft. later. They kept us wobbling side to side most all the way. We "wollered" down the lake today for our last outing on Lake Michigan!

We spotted the Chicago skyline 40 miles out...and as we got closer, this was the view...unaltered.

As we approached DuSable Harbor, where we'd be staying for the next couple of nights, the view was spectacular...

We've planned a short, 2 night stay in Chicago...long enough to see something we haven't seen here before and to visit with Jay and Carla's son, J.J., who lives here (at least for the next few weeks!) We've called J.J. and arranged to meet him for dinner tomorrow night and I've decided to take an architectural tour on the river tomorrow morning as was suggested by our friend Cheryl. As for this evening...we're water weary and in need of rest!

Thursday, September 11 - DuSable Harbor is a great location for visiting Chicago. This morning we walked over to Michigan Avenue at the river and I queued up for the tour. I'd selected the tour led by a docent from the Chicago Architectural Foundation and found a seat on the back of the upper open air deck. It was a perfect morning for the tour, weather wise. Since we'll be traveling down this river tomorrow morning as we leave Chicago, I wanted to get an idea of what we would see. It was time well spent!

My favorite building on the tour was the building at 333 W. Wacker Drive, an office building designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox. We caught the reflections from several angles on the trip and each time it was a little different...

Wayne, meantime, took off to find some of his old haunts up here from IBM days. We met back at Michigan Avenue after the tour and set off to find lunch. Wayne had spotted a few likely places, though most of the ones he'd remembered were no longer around. As we were walking along we passed by an interesting looking place serving Armenian food, Sayat-Nova. One look at the menu and we were hooked! When we got inside we were sure we'd made a good choice. The decor was cozy and exotic with walls that were rounded like a cave. I surreptitiously took a couple of photos...but their website has better pics, Below is detail of the wall behind our little piece of the cave...

After a nice lunch and walk back along the river we relaxed on the back deck with the view of Chicago competing with our books.

Speaking of books...this is the first time we've visited Chicago since we read Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. Our friend Jeff loaned us his copy for the trip. For those who haven't read it, it's about the Chicago 1893 World's Fair (the World Columbian Exposition, as it was also called), Daniel Burnham (who directed the fair and worked on the plan for the city of Chicago) and the serial killer who was loose in the city during the time of the fair.

When I saw the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier as we pulled into DeSable...I thought of the book. The first Ferris wheel, engineered by George Ferris, a bridge builder, was built for the 1893 Chicago fair. Of course the Ferris wheel on Navy Pier now is about half the size of the wheel designed for the fair!

That evening J.J. biked over to the boat and we enjoyed catching up with his bustling life. J.J. has been promoted to a VP position with Bank of America and will be leaving Chicago around the first week in October to take up residence in Manhattan! He's been looking around at housing there and still hasn't decided on a choice...though he knows it will be more money and less "house" than here in Chicago.

J.J.'s friend, Jessica, joined us at the boat before we took off to see his Chicago apartment and have supper out. What a view he has from his apartment! He's located in the part of Chicago they call "old town" and has views both of the city and the lake. It was already dark by the time we got up to his place and even at night it was beautiful.

From there we strolled through the neighborhood (an area with stand-alone houses and pedestrian friendly streets) to an old Chicago restaurant called Twin Anchors. (J.J. thought the nautical reference appropriate...and he guessed, correctly, that we might be missing the taste of barbecued ribs.) A neat, neighborhood tavern atmosphere...and, to our surprise, a location that was used during the filming of the latest Batman movie, The Dark Knight. (See the restaurant's website for a clip of the scene,

We said our goodbyes to J.J. and Jessica and wound up a perfect day in Chicago.

Tomorrow, we're back to the rivers...

Friday, September 12 - It was cloudy and threatening rain as we left DuSable Harbor this morning. We were going down 40-some miles to the city wall at Joliet, IL, for tonight. But first...a cruise down the Chicago River right through the city! Granted, the weather was a little rainy...but it was still exciting. Passing under low bridges with people walking to work...priceless! I tried to do a mini-architectural tour for Wayne as we went along, but his attention was a little diverted by the number of low, low bridges.

We had taken down the davit so we could fit under a 17 ft. fixed bridge along this route. But just when we were almost out of the city area we came upon a 10.5 ft. Amtrak bridge that is usually up when a train isn't passing...and the bridge was down.

We hovered a few minutes thinking a train must be coming...and a train did come. But the bridge still didn't raise. We hailed the bridge on the reply. We tried several different channels in case our information was reply. We decided to tie up to the wall along the left descending bank at a nearby park while we decided what to do. Time passed. Nothing happened. We finally started making phone calls...and finally got the Coast Guard on the phone. They didn't know of a reason the bridge wouldn't be lifting, but said they would call the bridge to try and find out something. We were called back in just a few minutes. Apparently the bridge hadn't heard our calls. ???? The bridge lifted and we went through. One hour lost.

The landscape begins to change now. We're out of the bustling city and into the industrial area of the river...

We saw a new variety of tow boat, for us, with an hydraulic lift for the pilot house so they can get down low enough to go under the low Chicago bridges....

Another interesting site along this waterway was the electronic fish barrier we passed through. In looking for information about it I came across an article by Deborah J. Siegelbaum from the Medill Report that explains the problem and the solution as of October 2007:

It’s not Jaws, but this dangerous fish could take a big bite of the Illinois economy. The Asian carp, a non-native species imported from China and
Siberia, is eating its way up the Mississippi River toward the Great Lakes, conquering water ecosystems in its path.

With an estimated $4 billion a year in commercial and sport fishing in the Great Lakes, it’s vital to both the environment and economy that the Asian
carp keep out. But it doesn’t just threaten the economy; this giant fish has also injured sport fishers and water skiers.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has constructed an electronic fish barrier along the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, the only defense against
the invasive species that feeds on plankton and decimates the fish food chain. ......

Federal and state agencies joined to tackle the threat of invasive species in 1996, when representatives of the U.S. Army Corps, the EPA, Fish and
Wildlife Service, Illinois Department of Natural Resources and environmental academics met to discuss options for a barrier. Possible solutions
included chemical treatment, heat, sound, dense bubbles and de-oxygenation of the water.

It was vital that the barrier not interfere with the large flow of commercial barge traffic through the ship canal, or with the flow of wastewater away<br>from Lake Michigan. In the end, the electronic “barrier was selected because it was a proven technology and there was a practical way to
implement it,” Shea said. ...

A demonstration barrier was constructed in early 2002 at a cost of nearly $4 million in federal funding. Intended as a research tool rather than a
permanent solution, the barrier uses 12 electrodes strung 54 feet along the canal bottom through steel cables. One volt per inch is emitted into the
water, a level studies indicate deters the majority of fish.

Shea explains that the barrier “puts an electrical field into the water, strongest in the middle of the canal, so a fish coming in from either side starts
to get a shock. [The fish] realizes that if it continues moving forward, it will get an even bigger shock, so they turn away.”

Activated in April 2002, the barrier is continuously operated. It is the largest of its kind in the world, and the first of its type to be used on an open

Unfortunately, materials used in the demonstration barrier were not long-lasting; the steel cables running the electrical charges have since
The article goes on to explain that they have begun construction on a new electronic barrier just a short distance from the old one. Since the article is now a year old, it isn't clear to me whether they've completed the project by now or whether funding has been an issue. At any rate, it's an interesting problem... and solution.

So...we only had two locks to negotiate on this trip to Joliet. The first, the Chicago Lock, was at the beginning of the Chicago River right off Lake Michigan and the second was just a few miles north of Joliet, the Lockport Lock. When we arrived at the lock we could see they were in the process of moving down a tow and its load of barges. We hailed the lockmaster on channel 14 and asked about how long it would be before they could let us through and he said it would be about 2 hours. The tow captain came on and said we could go through with him on the last pass down (it was going to take a few loads to get all his barges down) and that way it would only be about 1.5 hours wait. We thanked them and tied up to the wall area offside.

As we waited, two other power boats (Charmed III and Our Turn, whom we'd met at Manistee) and one sailboat gathered for the next trip down. And, as we waited, debris of all manner began to collect around the boats on the wall. Large ropes, huge logs, trash, animal remains...YUK! As the time neared for us to position for the lock we decided we'd better try to get out of this stuff without hurting the propellers. We cleared as much as we could with the boat hook, then let the boat drift with the current a little to move out from the wall and into cleaner water.

The last load was ready to go down (turns out there were twelve barges, total, involved!) and the tow captain said we could tie to their barges, but he wouldn't take responsibility for any damage done to the boats on the trip down. The lockmaster, who had deferred to the captain on this decision, seemed to feel it would be best for us to tie to the barges rather than to the lock wall opposite we tied up to the barges.

You know, here we are 5,500 miles or more into our trip and you'd think we might have experienced just about all you could on the water during that time. This was the first time, though that we've tied to a barge in a lock. Here's a picture of the tow, the Show Me State, as it entered the lock chamber...and a shot of our boats tied up to the barges.

With that little adventure under our belt we made our way down to the Joliet town dock and tied up with Our Turn and two other boats for the night. By this was raining pretty hard.
Saturday, September 13 - Rain, rain... and more rain.

The bridge just below our tie up in Joliet didn't open until 8:30AM, so we had plenty of time to ready for the day. Overnight a good bit of rain had fallen and the current on the river...and the resulting debris...had picked up considerably. In fact, we had another log jam behind the boat this morning! We're learning all the time. Now we know to bow-in to the current, no matter what! We were going down to Heritage Harbor Marina in Ottawa, IL, today, about a 50 mile trip. Our Turn was going the same way so we decided to travel together since the locks would control our pace anyway. Our Turn had picked up something on their props during the Lockport Lock incident and was running a little slower than usual so we led the way.

Up at the bridge, which would have to be opened for us because the water levels were rising and we needed more clearance than was available, we hailed the bridge tender and asked for a pass through. He started the process...then called us back to say that one of the guard gates on the road to the bridge would not lower and he was going to have to call in a mechanic. He thought it might only be an hour's delay.

Back to the Joliet wall we went (only minutes away) and tied up, bow to the current, to wait for word on the bridge. Within the hour he contacted us and said it was fixed. We called the Brandon Road Lock, just below the bridge, to make sure they could take us through before we left the wall and they assured us we would be able to lock right through.

The trip today was frought with debris and rain. We saw duck blinds set up along this area of the Illinois River and this guy was putting out some of the BIGGEST goose decoys we've ever seen! Wayne says, "No self respecting goose would dare approach these decoys!" Can geese see well??

After the Brandon Road Lock we had two more before we could get to Heritage Harbor. Fortunately, after a rough start this morning with the bridge, we were able to do great time through the locks. Just before the last lock we passed a tow with several barges and when we were within about 2 miles of the lock called to check on passage through. If we could get there in 15 minutes we could make it down with a few other pleasure craft (pc's, they call us). We did it and were pulling into Heritage Harbor around 3:30 PM.

As we made our way down the river Wayne talked with a marina further down that we'd planned to visit next, the Illinois Valley Yacht Club, or IVY Club, as it's called. The contact said they were expecting the water to go up 10 ft. over the next few days...cresting around Wed....and places south of them would receive even more. The IVY Club was having its fuel tanks pumped out as a safety precaution. We'd planned to top off there before hitting the Mississippi.

When we got to Heritage Harbor we asked about diesel and they said they could bring in a truck for us. Turns out the truck was coming in that afternoon anyway to pick up their fuel since the water was rising quickly. Three boats took on fuel that afternoon at $4.08/gallon.

Word has it we probably won't be able to leave here for several days. The waters are to continue to rise, even after the rain is supposed to stop tomorrow. We'll see what happens.

Sunday, September 14 - Rain, rain and MORE rain...

We woke up and got Lucy out for her walk. Whoops! The floating docks were up several more feet this morning and the ramp that normally would lead to land is stuck in the water. A couple of boaters waded through the water...up to their go ashore. Wayne called the marina and found out they have a little work boat on our dock so we used that this morning to take Lucy in (whew! she says...) and then Ellen, Nat and I went to the grocery store and transported the loot back to the boats in the work boat.

The work boat, now water taxi...

And our view from the dock, looking towards the marina office and land. Note they are moving the porta-john further up the hill, and they moved the fuel tank from the concrete pads in the water (now) to a spot on the hill.

Waters are continuing to rise. We could see when we were in town this morning that there are homes in jeaopardy. They are expecting the waters to rise close to a record high this week in many areas. We're all safe and (usually) dry...congregating haphazardly at the "boaters' lounge" on a houseboat at the end of our dock. Just when we think we've been through everything...something new, again. Gotta love it!

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