Sweet Home Chicago

Hello virtual crew members and fellow adventurers!

4 Chicago (2)

We have had another virtual crew member come aboard.  Welcome Mycalhus!

Summary of week:


The crew made three runs this past week: they crossed Lake Michigan from Grand Haven to Chicago (1), took the Chicago River to Joliet (2), then took the Illinois River to Ottawa (3).

Click here to read the day-to-day travel log. This includes weather report, sea conditions, captain’s log, a summary of the day’s experience, and a few pics of the route.

The voyage of discovery did answer the following questions this week:

  1. What is the number one tune with the word ‘Chicago’?
  2. Extra Credit, for the first singer to perform the song to question #1?
  3. What is the oldest baseball stadium in the Major Leagues?
  4. What is the ‘Basket’ at Wrigley Field?
  5. How old is the Manual Scoreboard at Wrigley Field?

At the Box Office

This week’s video shows Still Waters II  cruising thru downtown Chicago.  After she makes it thru town she cruises thru some rural areas, industrial areas, and finally meets a tow.

The background music to this week’s video, Sweet Home Chicago, was originally performed by Robert Johnson in 1936.  Most of his material was composed in just two years, 1936 and 1937.  His life was cut short in 1938 when a jealous husband poisoned Robert, which makes another legend about his life initially seem odd.  He is credited with selling his soul to the devil in exchange for commercial success at a crossroads in Mississippi.  Robert had little commercial success or recognition during his lifetime.  However, Eric Clapton has called Johnson ‘the most important blues singer that ever lived.’  Johnson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the first induction class in 1986.  But, as everybody knows, it was the Blues Brothers who made the song famous.  Enjoy!

To see past videos, click on the link to the Still Waters II Vimeo site.  The library contains videos of Still Waters II cruising America’s Great Loop.

Sunday, Aug 26th

The winds that have been blowing for the last week finally died off during the night and the Big Lake looks like she has settled down for awhile.  The forecast shows high winds starting again late in the afternoon and blowing for a few more days.  At this pace it might take an additional week to get down the east side of Michigan and across to Chicago.

With a short window of opportunity today, the crew has decided to roll the dice and try to make the 108 mile run all the way across the Big Lake to Chicago before the winds pick back up.  A bit risky, but the skipper is tired of the winds and waves on Lake Michigan.

The crew got up early, before sun up, to try to get a few extra hours of calm motoring before the winds kick up.  They followed six charter fishing boats out of the channel and into Lake Michigan in the dark.  They lost sight of the boats running lights almost immediately as they left the protected channel.  A heavy fog set in on top of them and visibility was down to feet in front of the bow due to the dark and fog.

The view for much of the morning.

39 Fog

The cruising conditions on the water were great though.  The winds were light around 5 miles per hour and the waves were basically non-existent.  The skipper put the radar and the autopilot to good use to guide them safely across the lake.  These conditions existed until around 1230 when the fog finally gave way to the sun.

A few hours later, still in calm conditions, the crew spotted the skyline of Chicago, a happy sight.

Approximately 7 miles off shore from Chicago

40 Chicago

Around 1700, the crew was entering the Chicago Harbor.  As the crew rounded the break water wall they felt the wind gust a few times and then start to build.  By the time they found their slip at the end of C Dock the winds were up over 15 miles per hour and the water was white capping just outside the harbor.  Now that is cutting it pretty close.

Harbor entrance

44 Harbor entrance

The crew was happy to be off the Big Lake but had one more obstacle to overcome as they docked.  The crew had planned to pull along the B Dock with a port side tie to pump out the holding tanks prior to landing at their slip.  Because of the high winds and surge at Grand Haven, a few of the dock lines need to be replaced due to wear and tear.  This resulted in not having enough lines to prep both sides of the boat for docking anymore.

Sailboat enjoying the wind, notice the octopus on the main sail

42 Sailboat

Just as the crew arrived at the B dock for a port side tie, another boat landed on the B dock.  There was no room left on the dock, so the skipper decided to go on over to their slip assignment at C Dock.  However, this caused the Admiral to have to shift lines over to the starboard side so that they could land and hook up to shore power.  While the skipper was turning the boat around to get the starboard side towards the dock, the starboard main engine high temperature alarm went off.  The gage showed 200 degrees which should not be cause for a high temperature alarm, but the alarm was blaring none the less.

The Admiral was scurrying as fast as possible to move the lines, and the skipper got over to the dock as quickly as possible.  As soon as they got the breast line down and secured, the skipper turned off the starboard main engine.  Sure would not have been fun trying to dock in the wind with only one engine.

This expresses the crews relief of making it to Chicago

45 Sailboat

Well, what an interesting end to another delightful cruise down Big Lake Michigan.  The crew is sure glad to have that part of the Loop behind them!

Monday, Aug 27th

Future sailors just off the dock, Navy Pier in the background

1 future sailors

The young man in the lead boat saw the skipper with the camera, so he directed his charges to wave at the camera.  One little boy was heard to say, “I’m not waving at the camera!”  You may of heard of Southern Hospitality, well that was a version of Northern Hospitality, or flat out rebellion.

The main goal today was to figure out how to get to Wrigley Field to catch a Cubs game since they are in town.  Turns out it was pretty easy using the transit function of the map app on the phone.  It was a one mile walk up to the red line subway, then a six mile ride on the train to the ball park.

But no task is as easy as it looks.  When the crew arrived at the subway station, the skipper must have had a sign on his forehead that said ‘Novice.’  While reviewing the wall map to verify what train to get on, a nice young man approached and asked if the crew was going to the game.  The skipper replied in the affirmative, and the young man stepped in front of the skipper to block his access to the ticket machines.  This maneuver also funneled the crew to the turnstiles.  The man quickly scanned a ticket and the turnstile opened to let the skipper in.  He did it again, and the Admiral was inside also.  The man then handed the skipper the tickets and said that will be ten dollars since they were round trip tickets. The skipper reached in his pocket where he keeps only a few dollars, handed the guy 9 dollars and said this is all I got.  The man took the cash and directed the crew how to get on the right train.

When they got down to the loading area, the skipper and Admiral looked at each other with a “what just happened look.”  The skipper was the first to speak and said I think we just got hustled but not sure how bad.  The Admiral agreed.

When they arrived at the ball park the skipper went up to a subway worker and explained what had happened.  The worker just shook her head and said do not ever do that again.  She then assisted the skipper to determine that his two tickets were indeed expired tickets and worthless.  Six dollars later, the ticket machine spit out two return tickets for after the game. So basically the skipper paid three dollars more for the other tickets.  Education is expensive, no matter how you get it.

With a guaranteed ticket to get back to the boat, it was time to go enjoy some baseball.  Wrigley Field is the second oldest stadium in the Majors.  The Cubs have been playing at Wrigley Field since 1916.  The oldest stadium is in Boston, at Fenway Park which opened in 1912.  And the Texas Rangers, well they are working on their third stadium since the 1970’s.

The crew walked around the stadium before entering.  They have statues of Cubs Hall of Famers scattered around the outside of the stadium.

Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub

5 Wriggley Field

Outside the stadium, but inside the ticket area, a big, Big, BIG screen TV is available for fans to sit and watch the game.  You can see the TV behind Ernie Banks in the pic above.  Before the game, a band was set up in the area playing country music to a large crowd that had gathered.

The crew went on in the stadium to find their seats down the third base line.  The stadium filled up quickly as most of the fans were in their seats before the first pitch.

Historic Score Board, 30 minutes before game time, the scoreboard was installed in 1937

5.3 (2)

The roof top seats outside the stadium were also full.


The actual playing field has some interesting ground rules due to its age and design.  For example, the outfield wall has a chain link fence that runs the entire length of the outfield.  This chain link fence actually extends into the playing area.  The design was made to keep fans from falling out of the bleachers and onto the playing field.  (A felony charge for a fan on the field in Chicago.)  The result is that a ball can land on top of the chain link fence but still be inside the outfield wall.  This no mans land is termed the ‘Basket’ by fans.  The umps call it a home run if a ball lands on the chain link.

The basket

47 wrigley-field-basket

The ivy on the wall is also interesting.  By Major League Baseball rules, the outfield wall must be padded.  The Cubs are the only park in the Majors without a padded wall.  They are also the only team with an exemption to the rule, they were grandfathered when the rule was passed.

The ivy also causes some interesting ground rules.  If the ball goes into the ivy and is stuck, the outfielder may raise his hand and the hit is ruled a ground rule double and other runners only advance one base.  However, if the player reaches into the ivy to get the ball, the runners can advance at their own risk.

Wrigley Field Ivy at Center Field

47.1 Wrigley-Field

The last observation on the Cubs and their fans was the number of baseballs that ended up in the stands.  After the Cubs completed warm-ups, the players walked over near the stands and began tossing balls into the stands.  Each player must have thrown about ten balls into the stands.  In between every inning, all three balls used by the players to warm-up were tossed into the stands.  And lastly, every time a Mets player made an out, without runners on base, the players would toss the ball around the infield and finally to the pitcher.  The pitcher would roll the ball to the dugout.  Then someone in the dugout would toss the ball into the stands.  If the pitcher did not like the ball he was pitching, he would roll it to the dugout also, and that ball would be in the stands.  The Cubs put cases of balls in the stands every night.  A great experience at Wrigley Field with a Cubs Win.

Tuesday, August 28th

The skipper used the day to check out the starboard engine and make sure it was ready to go.  Initial checks reveal no damage to the engine or components.  The skipper did find the oil and coolant levels unusually low though.  He filed them back to normal and will have to keep a closer eye on them for awhile.

Wednesday, August 29th

The crew headed to the Chicago Lock to officially exit Lake Michigan and enter the Chicago River.

So long Lake Michigan

2 Goodbye Lake Michigan

Entering Chicago Harbor Lock

3 Chicago River

Hello Chicago River


The crew decided to take the Chicago River back thru downtown Chicago on their way to Joliet.  There was much activity along the waterfront and the sights and sounds were exhilarating.

Still Waters II reflection off a building

3.4 Reflections

The  cruise was going well until the crew arrived at a closed RR Bridge with only 11 feet of clearance.  The skipper could not contact the Bridge Tender by phone, radio, or horn signal to request the bridge to open.  After ten minutes of trying to make contact, the Bridge Tender finally answered the phone and said he had two trains approaching and he would open the bridge after the second train passed.

Second train stopped on the bridge


After another 20 minute wait, the trains were gone and the bridge opened.

The next obstacle today would be the Electric Fish Barrier.  Only one vessel is allowed to transient the area at a time.  When the crew arrived they were the only vessel around so they cruised on down the river and passed the barrier.  News reports are claiming the fish barrier is not working very well and that some Asian Carp have actually made it north of the barrier and closer to Lake Michigan.  There are some threats and news out in the grapevine that the government might close the river to prevent the carp from making it into Lake Michigan.  Surely, there is a better solution than closing the river to recreational boaters.


Tight squeeze as the crew left the fish barrier and a tow had arrived at the southern end of barrier.


The last challenge for the day was the Lockport Lock.  The crew arrived at the lock just as a large tow was leaving.  Once the tow cleared the lock, the skipper got the green light to enter.  The Admiral used a new tool the skipper made to assist in attaching the boat to the floating bollard in the lock.  He basically took some line and ran it thru a hose to form a ring.  This allows the Admiral to play ring toss with the bollard and attach the line to the boat which is much easier than trying to lean out over the railing and around the bollard with the line.  The tool worked excellently, and will make locking in these large river locks much easier.

The Admiral modeling the new tool.


After arriving in Joliet, the crew prepared for a night out on the town with relatives.  Cyndi, the Admirals cousin, came and picked the crew up and drove them north where they also met with Brandy and Rich (Brandy is Cyndi’s daughter).  The crew had a great time breaking bread and talking with family.  Thanks for dinner Cyndi!!!!

Thursday, Aug 30th

The crew spent most of the day relaxing between boat projects and cleaning.  Probably more relaxing than boat projects though.  In the afternoon a series of six Looper boats pulled onto the wall at Joliet to join our crew.

One of the boats, Green Eyes, is from Coronado, California.  Green Eyes is crewed by a nice couple Sherry and Orin.  They have cruised all over the world, but what caught the Admiral’s attention was that they have cruised from San Diego Harbor all the way to Juneau, Alaska on their own boat.  The Admiral was asking many questions about the route and some how to questions as well.  The Admiral is leaning more and more towards that west coast cruise all the time.

Friday, Aug 31st

Just another down day to plan for the next run down to Ottawa.  Five of the boats tried to leave around 6 this morning but there was a tow in the next lock.  The operator said it would be two hours before the tow exited the lock.  The boats decided to return to the wall at Joliet.  Around 0930, it looked like the lock operator was ready for the boaters, but a train came before they could get under the open RR Bridge.  The bridge went shut and they had to wait for the train to go by.  Did I mention how sloooooow the train went by.  They finally got in the lock around 1030.  Glad our crew decided to sit it out today.

Another 6 Looper boats arrived at Joliet late in the afternoon.  About 1730 the crews all gathered for dock tails to swap sea stories.  The Joliet Harbor Host also arrived and ran a few boaters to the local grocery store to re-provision.

6 Docktails Joliet

Saturday, Sept 1st

The day started early but would get off to a slow start.  The skipper called the Brandon Lock (which is only 2 miles downstream) to see about getting in the que to lock thru this morning.  There were two tows in the lock going down bound, and one tow upbound waiting to get in the lock.  The Lock Master said it would be at least three hours before he could get to the seven pleasure craft on the Joliet wall.  The skipper said he would call back at 0830.  While debriefing the other boat captains, another down bound tow passed the boaters and arrived at the lock.  Hmmm. Might be awhile before the seven Loopers make the lock.

At 0830, the skipper called the lock again and learned that the seven Looper boats had been pushed to noon for their lockage.  At 1130, the skipper called again and the lock master said the upbound tow was pushing out of the lock so come on down.  Two of the boats decided to stay at Joliet due to the late start, but five boats shoved off the wall and headed down stream towards the lock.

Green Eyes in the Brandon Road Lock

1 Brandon Road Lock

After the tow got completely out of the lock, the lock master gave the green light and the five pleasure craft entered the lock.  It was a slow 34 feet down because one of the drain valves was broken.  That explains why it was taking three hours to move one tow.

Babe in Brandon Road Lock


Still Waters II on Brandon Road Lock

1.5 Still Waters II

After exiting the lock it was about 14 miles to the Dresden Lock.  The lock master made the five boats wait 30 minutes before he opened the gate.  Then he directed the smallest boat to tie to the port side of the lock.  He then directed the four larger boats to all draft off the forward bollard.  Never seen this before.  Francesco was on the wall, then Still Waters II, then Babe, then Nova Jornada.

Francesca holding three other boats on the wall

2 Dresden Lock

When the crew exited the Dresden Lock they were officially in the Illinois River.

The Illinois River was giving a nice push due to the current and the five boat flotilla was making 10 mph.  This was good because it was three hours to the next lock, then two miles before the marina.  Nobody was looking forward to making any miles in the dark.

As it turned out, the flotilla arrived at the Marseilles Lock at 1800 to make the 24 foot drop down.  They exited the lock at 1837 and managed to be docked before sunset.  Glad to have that day in the rear view mirror.

Boat name of the week

In the DuSable Marina in Chicago


Next Week –

The crew will stay at Heritage Harbor thru the Labor Day weekend.  They will then head down the Illinois River to make way to Grafton, Illinois near the intersection with the Mississippi River.

Loop On – Where the road ends, the water begins. The water goes on forever, and the adventure never ends.

Eric the Red

3 Comments on “Sweet Home Chicago

  1. Your travel log will help guide us as we move down into Chicago and South on the rivers!


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