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

Monday, September 24, 2012

Those Summer Nights

The weather has definitely been feeling like fall here lately, and the lake has seen shifting conditions as well with many small craft advisories and 4ft+ days. All this cold weather and lack of boating has made me wistful for those perfect summer nights on the lake. Hopefully we'll get a few more before this season is over, usually mid-October. Here's a few pictures to reminisce with me!

Anchored for sunset outside Ogden Dunes

Sunset over lake michigan, Chicago skyline in distance

Nothing better than friends + bonfire on the beach on a Monday night

Blue swim lights and sunset

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Upgrading the Ground Tackle

After our night on the rocks in the North channel we knew without a doubt that our anchoring equipment needed some serious upgrading. For weeks after we got home I (Ben) would jump out of bed in the middle of the night and run to the bedroom window to "see if we were moving". In order to stop these nightmares I spend a ridiculous amount of time researching different anchors, chain/rode combinations, and anchoring techniques. We also found our Windlass had blown an oil seal on the gearbox and dumped it's gear oil all over the rope in the anchor locker. Time for a complete overhaul of our anchoring system.

The Manson Supreme
After much research we decided on a 25lb Manson Supreme for our new main anchor. The New Zealand built Manson Supreme received the Loyd's of London status of SHHP, or super high holding power. This anchor is also know to set within it's own length. The 25lb model is rated for up to a 34ft boat so it should have no problem holding our 26 footer!
Anchor dug in

The next step was to reseal the gearbox on our windlass. After removing the gear box I removed the gears, soaked them in solvent, and cleaned up any burs with emery cloth.
Gearbox ready for solvent
Pressing in new seals

The seals were easy to replace and for only the price of a 30.00 seal kit we have a like new windlass that isn't leaking and destroying our anchor rode. With the gearbox sealed it was time for the final piece of the puzzle, the anchor rode/chain. Our boat came with braided 8 plait nylon rode and 5 feet of chain. We decided to stick with the 8 plait rode but decided to add an additional 10 feet if 1/4inch high test chain to the new setup. The additional chain will help keep the rode on the bottom, prevent abrasion to the nylon rode, and maintain a better scope angle. We ordered from a company called Seco South in Florida and were very impressed not only with their great prices but top notch customer service! The anchor package we ordered even came with a very nice chrome swivel that helps the anchor spin around into the roller.

The final result! We couldn't believe how fast and how hard this new anchor set. As we backed down on the anchor for the first time, the boat abruptly came to a halt and we both flew forward....the anchor was set! It was nice to instantly feel the results of our upgrade!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Day 14: Going Home

After 2 nights at DeTour Harbor, we decided to end the trip a few days early to go home and relax at "our" beach!
We were very happy with the launch ramp in DeTour, and with the marina. Plus, Passage Boat Works was very accommodating in storing our truck & trailer for 2 weeks. They even met us at the launch ramp to help us launch! http://www.passageboatworks.com/

Once we had the boat on land, we surveyed the damage from our "rock incident" in Beardrop Harbour. All things considered, we really got lucky that all we ended up with were some scrapes and rough edges.
Heading home, Ben was feeling much more comfortable trailering the boat, even over the Mackinac Bridge
View of Lake Michigan from the Mackinac Bridge
Nearing our home port, we were greeted by some pretty scary storm clouds!
Our next post will be an overview of our trip in the North Channel, and now a month later, how we're feeling about our trip looking back! I will say we are planning on going back next year, hopefully with better luck this time. One thing for sure is we definitely gained a lot of experience and learned some things the hard way. But we wouldn't have traded that experience for any other vacation!