Monday, August 30, 2010

Chicago

What a great town! Anna and I have had a great time running around Chicago and seeing all the sights. From the moment we arrived we were totally captivated by the feeling of this wonderful city. We docked at a marina right across from Soldier Field where we had a wonderful view of the Chicago skyline. Our days have been spent enjoying the many museums and attractions in downtown Chicago. We also had the opportunity to see Anna's Aunt and Uncle and enjoyed a wonderful dinner at one of their favorite Cajun restaurants. Having grown up and worked in and around NY city, I was shocked by the different feeling one feels when walking through Chicago. The city is much more spread out than NY, but the museums are some of the best I have ever seen. We could walk to the Field Museum, Aquarium and Planetarium right from our marina. By far my favorite was the Museum of Science and Industry, we had a blast walking through the exhibits and watching the IMAX movies. A few nights before we got to Chicago I was talking with Bill and Paul two cruising buddies of ours on Monkey Girl and Bulldog Sally. We came up with an idea to treat the ladies to a night on the town. It goes without saying that at times the men can get a bit full of themselves as they assume command of their boats and a lot of times as you call out orders while docking, it can leave the crew feeling a bit like servants. Well after many months of cruising we felt it was about time we did something to show how much we appreciate them putting up with us. So a surprise night on the town with a dinner at the famous Gibsons Steak House and a show were arranged. As it turns out it is not easy to keep a secret on a 32 ft boat, I am sure Anna smelled something cooking but she played right along. It was a great night with fine food and loads of laughs. Anna and I have made some great friends on this trip, that evening in Chicago as we danced to the music of Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins at the Million Dollar Quartet will be remembered as the highlight of our time on lake Michigan.



video
Looking down from the top of the Sears Tower was just awesome!




This German WWII Sub was captured by the US and keep a secret till the end of the war.  The men that boarded this sub and stopped the Germans attempt to sink her may have won the war at sea.

Soldier Field was hopping as the Bears played.  The tailgate parties were out of sight.
I loved seeing the old planes in the museums.
Had to take a picture next to my dad's dream tractor.
Hard to believe this ship has been to the moon and back.
Suddenly our boat isn't looking so small.
The Field Museum.
I think I saw this in a movie.
It was great to watch the children walk up to the spacecraft with wide eyes.
Now this is how you end a day in Chicago.  How could we leave without sampling the pizza.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Chicago Bound

The Big day had finally arrived, we were on our way to Chicago.  With the winds from the previous night dieing down, Anna and I consulted the weather and dock master and made the decision to make way.  It looked like we would have a light day in the morning, but the wind would soon be back and were forecast to blow for the next few days.  If Anna and I were going to see the Blue Angels, today would have to be the day.  In the first hour of the trip Anna and I felt we may have made a drastic mistake.  The channel leaving the harbor was a washing machine of waves which tossed Blue in all directions.  In our wildest dreams we had never thought it would have been that bad.  If we had known, there was no way I would have left.  Once through the cut Anna suggested we turn around, but the prospect of having to take Blue back through what we had just done was more than I wanted to do we were safer in the open water.  She agreed and we buckled down for a wild ride.  One of our friends called us on the radio and said after watching our little boat get tossed through the channel, they had decided to stick it out another day or two and they would catch up to us later not a bad decision we thought.  Andrew was smart having decided to watch us go through the cut before making his decision.  The Monkey Girl on the other hand had left at the same time as us that morning, Anna and I felt for Bill and Laura  they had friends on board whom did not have much experience boating.  We called to him and asked him how it went, his response was that it had been some quiet on board as they entered and made way through the channel.  He agreed as well that it would have to be an emergency to willfully transit the opening again today.  Once on the outside the seas calmed down and Anna and I got a chance to put the boat back together.  We had made it though pretty well, but for the first time our table in the salon was knocked on its side.  Thankfully there was no damage to the table but an old lantern we had secured to the top shelf of the salon had come free and had smashed into pieces.  I spent a long time that morning wondering if I had been made a poor decisions with regards to our safety on Blue.  That channel had really shaken me up and taken both of us off guard. None of us had dreamed it would have been as bad as it was.  Anna and I have always taken comfort in the knowledge that Blue, if piloted properly is rated to withstand 15 foot seas in up to 40 kts of wind.  It goes without saying that neither of us ever want to experience that ride, but once again we were left with a sense of pride that our little tug charged through the situation and delivered her crew to safety. With each experience we have, which have been many on this lake, Anna and I feel more and more strongly towards the safety and security one has when traveling in a Nordic Tug.

We could finally see the Chicago Skyline.  What a sight!


The first plane a big Bomber could be seen off Blue's bow.  We had made it in time.


The Chicago Harbor was filled with boats all waiting for the big show.

Anna and I couldn't believe it when this helicopter flew upside down.  This guy was nuts.

The sound when this big transport plan buzzed out heads was deafening.


It was so amazing to see these planes perform with the backdrop of Chicago behind them.

Finally Fat Albert arrived to announce the arrival of the Blue Angels.

These guys are just amazing to watch.



What a sight.
Two Jets screaming at each other head on.
We thought the transport plain was loud, these guys shook the boat as they buzzed the crowd.
What a day and what a show.  Anna and I thought it was a great way to arrive in  Chicago.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hold on, we've got big seas ahead!


If there are two things that Anna and I will take from Lake Michigan they are that Michigan has the best municipal marinas we have seen and that Lake Michigan can produce some of the heaviest seas we have ever boated in. Since leaving Mackinac Island, Anna and I have made our way down the east cost of the Lake. The stops we have made have all been wonderful. Our favorite was without question Traverse City. I have come to learn that Traverse City is a destination most often skipped by Loopers. It is a good day’s travel from the tip of Traverse Bay Peninsula to Traverse City but as far as we were concerned it was well worth the detour. Pulling into town Anna and I quickly fell in love with the waterfront which hosts numerous concerts, farmers markets, wine festivals, and even a beer fest. I was particularly upset to learn that we will miss the beer fest. I have no doubt that it would be a great time. To our surprise we were delighted to find that Blues Traveler, a band that Anna and I have loved for sometime, were going to be playing in town while we were there. We tried to get tickets by calling the local merchants but we found that the event had been sold out for some time. Soon after making peace with the fact that we were out of luck, Anna and I noticed a large truck pulling into a park right next to our dock. It became apparent that a stage was being constructed. Would you believe our luck, not only was Blues Traveler going to perform on that stage, we were going to have front row seats from the top deck of Blue. It was totally awesome, Anna and I invited some friends we knew from the city to join us on the top deck and a good time was had by all. That evening as Anna and I retired to bed, we discussed how lucky we have been so far on the trip. The weather has been unbelievable and our luck seemed to be never ending. Well with our departure from Traverse City, our luck seemed to have run out. For some time prior to our arriving in Michigan, Anna and I had discussed which side of the lake we would travel on our way to Chicago. The west side offered wonderful cruising in Wisconsin, but little options for marinas as you made your way to Chicago. The East side offers wonderful Marinas but is much more susceptible to the westerly winds on the lake. Our decision was to stick to the Michigan side and enjoy the sandy beaches on our way south. Well as luck would have it we seemed to find ourselves caught in the open in heavy seas with every jump we made south. After getting beat up one too many times, Anna and I decided that the best way to go was to pick our good weather days and put as many miles under the hull as we could. This resulted in a number of long days on the water and has put us a good week and a half ahead of where we thought we would be at this time. There were two distinct occasions coming down the lake when Anna and I truly got to see how lucky we were to have bought such a wonderful boat, Blue was built to take far more than her crew that is now as fact. Although the seas were not more than five to six feet, the frequency and steepness of the waves was far greater than Anna and I had ever witnessed. With each wave it became necessary to grab hold as the boats bow buried itself into the next oncoming wave. On quite a few occasions everything we owned flew in all direction on the boat. Many a night was spent cleaning up the boat. When the boat roles and cabinets open, well what you get is one hell of a mess. I would have to say the only one whom didn’t seem to mind was Mobey. He would tend to sit spread eagle on the back stairs to the salon, I think once or twice I caught him yawning as Anna and I held on as the boat made way through the seas. Now as we sit some forty miles from Chicago I feel sad that we pushed as hard as we did. When the weather was good Anna and I would travel 60 to 90 miles a day. Our jump from Frankfort to Muskegon was even over hundred. At 7.5 knots, that is a long day at the wheel. Michigan offered some wonderful towns and I am sure we could have spent a week in each one of them without ever feeling board, but the thought of spending a day battling the wind and seas was just too much. If we were to do it again, I don’t think we would have pushed so hard, rather we would have spent more time enjoying the towns. Because we can’t turn back the clock Anna and I have decided to take the time we should have spent in Michigan enjoying one of America’s most famous cities, Chicago. The Blue Angels are scheduled to perform over the city and Anna and I plan to have front row seats once again on the top deck of or beloved tug . I hope that with the name Blue Yonder the boys in blue will give is a good flyby as they scream overhead into the wide blue yonder.
We were amazed to see these swans all swimming together in the lake.  What a sight.

Anna loved looking at the famous Mushroom houses in Charlevois.  We had a great night walking through the town enjoyed watching The Wizard of Oz on the city's big screen in the park.
The lighthouses that mark the entrances to Michigan's Harbors of Refuge are always a welcome sight.


We got a kick out of watching this guy burn more gas than we have on our whole trip towing his kids behind his Yacht.

We had a great time walking down Traverse City's Main Street.  The Coffee Shops Restaurants and street performers were all great.  I had lots of fun watching a group of kids Break Dance on a street corner it is good to see the art of spinning on ones head is still alive and well.

We had a great dinner at this restaurant, if you go to Traverse City you have got to check it out, it was Fantastic!

After dinner Anna and I enjoyed looking out on Traverse Bay and watching all the activity.  It was a great night.

The next morning it was time to do some major surgery on Blues Bow Thruster.  We had noticed that there was a lack of power when activating the unit and with further inspection we saw huge sparks coming from the motor housing when it was activated.  I feared we would have to replace it.  When I took it apart I was relieved to see that the motor was just in need of a major cleaning.  Anna and I cleaned it and put her back in.  I have got to say it was some relief, a new motor would have put a real dent in the budget.

Anna and I had a went over to see Jay and John Kraft at Bay Breeze Yacht sales and looked at this absolutely awesome 42ft Nordic tug.  The boat was in unbelievable condition.  Anna and I had to wipe the drool from our chins as we walked through the boat, it had everything.  Anna and I have always enjoyed the company of John and Jay, they are two great guys and always go out of there way to make Nordic owners feel at home.  If you are looking for a boat to do the loop, you should give these guys a call.
Later that night we enjoyed watching Blues Traveler. This shot was taken form our top deck on Blue. 
Anna and I thought this Balloon was pretty cool.  It was inflated right behind the stage were Blues Traveler was playing.
On our way south from Traverse City Anna and I got a chance to tour this WWII sub the USS Silversides.  It is the most highly decorated US WWII sub in existence.  Getting a chance to go on board was something we didn't want to miss. 
This was the Head on the sub.  Now you might wonder why I took a picture of this.  Since Anna and I have lived on board Blue, we have had a ongoing battle with our sanitation system.  I am happy to report that we have finally gotten everything fixed.  The Museums description of the subs Head cracked us up, you have got to read the last lines on the pic below.
Thus the term "Code Brown" was born.
Having taken a beating on the lake, Anna and I have learned that when the weather is good you get an early start and run as far as the weather allows.  Getting underway early in the morning we saw some wonderful sunrises.
Every morning as we motored out of Michigan's Harbors we would wonder what the lake would offer us today.  I have a new respect for the lakes and there waters.  Mother Nature can be as cruel as she is beautiful, this has never been more clear to us than on these waters.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Giddyup!



It's a rainy day today on the Lake and Anna and I are taking the time to catch up with everyone.  We have just had one of the best visits to Mackinac Island anyone could ever hope for.  For those of you who have not heard of this place, it is a small island located about 10 miles from the Mighty Mackinac Bridge which spans the straits separating Lake Michigan from Lake Huron.  One of the most endearing things about Mackinac Island is that they have banned cars, and have continued to use horses as their primary form of transportation.  Since the Island is only 8 miles around, one can get around very easily on a bicycle.  It is just amazing to ride around the Island and witness all the goods and services being delivered by horse and carriage.  It is no wonder how Mackinac Island has gained a reputation as being one of the most romantic and beautiful places in the state of Michigan.  Like all great places it does have its quirks though.  The Ferries that bring people to and from the island are piloted by reincarnated Kamikaze Pilots, they seem to aim right at you as you make your way across the bay.  Anna and I got the scare of out lives as we were passed by one of the high speed rockets about 50 feet off our stern.  Thankfully we had just enough time to turn Blue into a hard turn and take the wake on our bow.  It scares me to think what would have happened if we had taken the wave on the stern quarter, it was just huge.  The other unfortunate thing about the island is that horse poop does stink and man do those animals like to poop.  Anna and I were very amused watching a group of workers ride around town on three wheel bikes with a bucket and shovel attacked picking up all the manure.  Man was it a full time job.  At night they wash main street with a fire hose and pull a wagon with a large pooper scooper attachment around the island cleaning the roads.  It made for some quick maneuvering on the bikes as we dodged the piles left and right.  I can't imagine how bad the streets of New York and Boston must have smelled back in the old days.  Leaving Mackinac Island was sad for us, it is a wonderful little Island which reminded us of our home on Nantucket.  We are heading south now traveling down the east coast of lake Michigan.  Our next major stop will be Traverse City.  I have heard wonderful things about this place and can't wait to check it out.  It will take a good week to get there, Lake Michigan is not the place to get caught in rough weather, we have seen that there is a harbor of refuge every 20 to thirty miles on the lake and we intend on taking full advantage of them.  As we found in our first few days here the lake can produce some huge seas and if you ever listened to Gordan Lightfoots song the Edmond Fitzgerald,  we have no desire to get caught if the winds of November come early.
video
Anna and I made this video using our IPhone.  It's not the best quality and it was hard to shoot it and dodge the horse poop, but it will give you a little taste of the Island.

The Mighty Mack!  Check out the Tanker going under the bridge.  This Bridge is Huge!
Finally we can put our Code Brown problems behind us.  This was a Crappy Job! 
Sorry I couldn't resist.
&^%**&^^*^%$^&*())*&^&!
Blue Yonder, Blue Chip, Blue Heaven.  OK the Dockmaster has a sense of Humor. 
The Grand Hotel.  Made famous in the Movie "Somewhere In Time"
All Islands have to have really expensive houses on a cliff road, it's a law I think.
Every house had the most amazing flowers.
They say the horse is King on Mackinac Island.  It was just amazing to see them all at work.
This man awaits his guests for the Grand Hotel.
It was so nice to take a stroll down mainstreet before the crowds arrived.  You can tell they have just finished washing the street. 
What a cool town.
Anyone have a match, that's the guy who waked us.
BONSAI!