Friday, December 7, 2012

Preparing for Winter

Pulling the boat out one last time for 2012
Well we've come to the end of another wonderful season with Seapickle II, and normally this starts the most depressing time in a boater's life....winter :-( Part of the reason we bought the trailer was to open up our storage options and more specifically so we could store the boat in heated storage instead of the outdoor storage we have used in past years. Once we had plenty of space cleared out in the warehouse we still had one major obsticle to overcome, the top of the boats arch was 4-6 inches taller than the opening of the garage door. We spent the last month cleaning and clearing space all while assuming the boat would fit so I was determined to find a way to squeeze under that door! Our only option would be to remove the boats arch.
One of the 6 bolts holding the arch on
After removing a few panels in the cockpit we were able to easily access the 6 bolts that hold the arch to the hull of the boat. We were unsure how heavy the arch was so we asked Ben's dad Bill to be there to hold the arch while Ben removed the bolts. Once all 6 bolts were removed we were shocked at how light this arch really was.
Dana posing with the dropped arch.
We set our V birth fill-in cushion on the helm and rested the arch on it without any problems and now the boat cleared the door with ease!
Bill standing by Seapickle II in her new winter home
Dana showing that there is plenty of room for those winter projects!
Once under the door we had plenty of ceiling height inside the building so we raised the arch back up, after all we don't want that big arch getting in the way of our mid winter cocktail parties we're planning ;-)
Stay tuned for some winter projects!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monroe Reservoir, Bloomington Indiana

September 12-14, 2012:  As the season is winding down we are finding fewer and fewer days to enjoy our home waters of Lake Michigan. This time of year the north winds are more prevalent making for cool weather and choppy water...what a great time to head south! We have often talked about visiting Monroe Reservoir in Bloomington, Indiana and it looks like this weekend will be a perfect opportunity to check out one of the largest inland lakes in our area.

Racing the sunset to Monroe Reservoir
Loading Seapickle II for a late launch
We got a much later start to our 3 1/2 hour drive than we originally planned, and wouldn't be arriving at the Paynetown Recreation Area launch ramp until dark. Normally, we wouldn't even consider boating on a lake for the first time in the dark. But since we knew what cove we wanted to anchor in, and since it was only a few miles from the launch, we figured we could take it slow and be fine.

Dana excited to try a new lake
The launch ramp at Paynetown was a really nice, wide concrete ramp that was well lit. Also, a nice feature was the courtesy docks just south of the ramp. Once in the water we took a 3 mile cruise at idle speed to a secluded cove our friends Joe and Miranda recommended to us based on their many years of experience boating on Monroe. We found the cove with no problems and slowly backed in and dropped our anchor in the middle of the small cove!

We sat in the back of the boat for a while just listening to the sounds of nature coming from the thick woods that surrounded us. There were two owls communicating with each other, and it sounded like one of them was at the back of our cove!  Tired from our drive, we decided to get to bed and planned on an early start to our exploration of the lake.

Just as we were shutting of the last light, we heard the hair raising sounds of something very large trying to claw it's way into the back of the boat!! WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?? I grabbed a flashlight, flung the cockpit door open only to hear a giant splash, and I mean giant splash, behind the boat. I nervously shined my flashlight all around just trying to catch a glimpse of whatever was messing with us. Was it a Sasquach? An irritated local? I never saw a thing. After a while I gave up my search and hoped whatever it was wasn't going to bother us again.

Steam rising at dawn
A beaver swimming across the front of our boat
In the morning once it was light out, I quickly checked the swim platform for any giant foot prints or claw marks...none were found at that time.  Ready to get a start to the day we fired up the propane Coleman coffee maker and started to make our breakfast. We really liked this cove with the exception of the weird noises last night, but still planned to move on to see other parts of the lake.

Making coffee
The Back of the Cove
A Beaver Den
We pulled up anchor and headed out to see how different this 11,000 acre reservoir looked in the daylight. With the help of our map and gps, we found it very easy to navigate with very few hazards to avoid. Cruising around we kept a sharp lookout for a good cove to stay in for the night. The lake was now filling up with boats so we figured we would pick a cove facing the west for a sunset, and come back to it later once the day boaters started clearing out.

Party Cove
The Dam
Feeling too lazy to prepare lunch, we decided to try out the resturaunt at Four Winds Resort and Marina. We pulled into a courtesy dock and walked up to the hill to the Windjammer restaurant. We really enjoyed the food and atmosphere. They even had a good selection of micro brew beers!

Courtesy and Fuel dock
The Windjammer
Ben doing the Robot?? Nope, just an awkward photo
After we ate, we decided to see if any of the coves we picked had cleared out. We cruised back towards the dam since we saw a few in the Sugar Creek area. Our first choice still had a big houseboat in it, but the nice cove next to it had almost completely cleared out except for one ski boat. The cove was large enough though, so we pulled in towards the back and set our anchor.

Our cove for night 2
As we settled into the cove, we were disappointed to see that the sky had become mostly cloudy, since we were hoping for a good sunset tonight. As we relaxed with cocktails and played a few games of Phase 10, the clouds suddenly broke and gave us an incredible sunset!

Too cloudy for a Sunset?
We looked up from our game of Phase 10 and the sky was on fire!

The next morning brought clear blue skies and warmer weather. We made coffee and breakfast on the back of the boat, and then spent the the majority of the day swimming, floating on our rafts and walking the shore looking for fossils.

Looking out from our cove in the morning (we slept in past sunrise)
Seapickle hanging out in crinoid cove
Ben hanging out on his raft
Alligator? Dana?

Dana hunting for fossils

When we got to shore for the first time, we were AMAZED at the amount and size of the crinoids, geodes and other fossils embedded in rocks. While we have found many crinoid stem pieces on the shore of Lake Michigan, we had never seen any quite like these! We can't wait to go back and check them out again.

Giant Crinoids and other fossils
While swimming back to the boat, Ben decided to take a look under the swim platform to see if there were any traces of the (animal?) that was on our boat Friday night. Once he saw the pattern of the teeth marks and the peeled-up plastic on the outdrive, he knew that cute little beaver we saw in the first cove must have been the culprit!

Damage done by beaver
It was getting late in the day Sunday, and we had a 3 1/2 drive home ahead of us, so we finally gave in and left our cozy "crinoid cove" to begin the journey home. Unfortunately, many other boats had the same idea at the same time, so the docks and ramp were pretty busy with boats being put on trailers. We waited our turn and actually did a really good job of getting the boat on the trailer quickly and right the first time! (we're getting better at this)

One last look
We had a scenic and relaxing drive home, filled with conversation about the next trips we would take!

Driving Home

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Chicago Trip - 31st Street Harbor

A beautiful Saturday for boating - and the congested burns waterway to go with it!
Saturday, Aug. 27: We woke up to a beautiful, calm morning and decided to take advantage of the great weather and lake forecast and take a cruise to Chicago for the day! Our previous harbor master, Gina, had moved to 31st Street Harbor in Chicago so we decided to pay her a visit and stay the night docked at 31st street.

Our route from Burns Waterway to 31st Street Harbor
31st Street Harbor is just South of downtown, so we took our bikes along so that we'd be able to have Ben's favorite Chicago pizza for dinner. It was wonderful to be out cruising on a perfect day, and we spent a lot of time marveling at the crystal-clear, caribbean-blue water.

Bikes strapped on the back of the boat
Flat seas and Chicago in the distance - perfect day for boating on Lake Michigan
Choppy nearing the city
It's a short 26 mile trip to Chicago, and with the smooth lake conditions we got there within an hour. When we arrived we called Gina at the harbor and secured a slip for the night on G Dock, a little away from most of the other boats (just like G Dock in our home marina!). 31st Street Harbor just opened this summer, so it was probably only at 50% of capacity. For our boat it was $80 for the night, which is a great deal for our hotel-on-the-water in the city.

Entering 31st Street Harbor
Tied up on G Dock!
After settling in and getting our personal access code for the facilities, we went off in search of the bike trail to get some exercise and then top it off with dinner downtown. Well we didn't have to go far for the bike trail. You would never know it from inside the harbor, but just outside the gate is a lively beach and the bike trail (filled with families in this stretch of trail) is just around the corner.

The bike trail along Lake Shore Drive - Soldier Field in sight
About 5 miles up the trail, I think that's Oak Street Beach
We ended up riding about 6 miles north on the trail to North Avenue Beach before giving in to the mid-day sun and heat and turning around back toward downtown & dinner! We took the trail in through Navy Pier, and then down a flight of stairs on the other side of the river.

Riding back toward downtown - bridge over the Chicago river
And finally we ended up at Giordano's in Prudential Plaza, right off Michigan Avenue. They had an outdoor patio, so we tied our bikes up right outside the patio and were able to keep an eye on them while we enjoyed our dinner.

Ben's favorite - Giordano's Pizza
Dana's favorite - bruschetta
After dinner, we detoured through Millennium Park and over the new bridge connecting Millennium Park & Lake Shore Drive. It had cooled down a bit, so the ride back was much nicer :-)

A boy, his boat, and the city
We spent the rest of the evening relaxing and enjoying the quiet marina atmosphere, and taking in the views from the 2nd story park built over the harbor house & parking garage.

The park & walkway on the 2nd level of harbor
Quiet night at the marina
The water was so clear in the harbor
We've been making it a point this year to wake up for sunrise to take photos (even though we usually go right back to sleep!) Some of our favorite photos have been taken during the time right before the sun rises - it seems everything is most beautiful during this time of day. Today though, despite the gorgeous sky at sunrise, a huge storm system was making it's way toward Chicago & Northwest Indiana so we only had a couple hours to enjoy the quiet of the morning. We cruised back in calm seas and noticed we still had awhile until the storm looked like it would hit, so we anchored outside Ogden Dunes for a nap on the sun pads before heading back to dock.

Just before sunrise on our dock
Sunrise at 31st street harbor, Chicago