Days on cruise: 164
Distance traveled: 41.8 miles
Travel time: 5 hrs, 15 minutes
Total trip odometer: 3,297 statute miles
Late Sunday afternoon Cathryn, Adrienne, Justin, and Justin’s father Jeff took off to see the view from the top of the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), while Bob and Denise (Justin’s mother) went to the park to listen to live music at JazzFest.
Bob and Denise had more fun, because the rest of the group had to stand in five different lines for two hours total time before arriving at the top of the Willis Tower. But the view was sure worth it once we got up there!
Monday morning, Labor Day, with all six of us on board, we left DuSable Marina, traveled the last 1/2 mile on Lake Michigan, and entered the Chicago Lock which dropped us a whopping two feet to the level of the Chicago River. And then had the spectacular experience of traveling right through downtown Chicago, looking up at all the skyscrapers, from our own boat. What a thrill!
The lowest fixed bridge is officially 17 feet, but we cleared them by well more than a foot, presumably because the water levels are low this year.
We were so early there was almost no other boat traffic on the river.
The photo below shows the top of our boat, the bimini, and the bottom of the bridge under which we passed. What’s to worry about? Good thing Bob took down the davit and radar dome or we’d have been in trouble!
Four miles downriver we pulled over at a park dock and said goodbye to Jeff and Denise who had to drive back home to Ohio to return to work Tuesday. We’re so glad to have met them in advance of next year’s wedding between their son and our daughter, and really enjoyed their visit.
The next 35 miles took us through territory that was largely industrial land and not very scenic except for the many birds. We only passed two moving tows pushing barges on this stretch, so we felt fortunate. But that gave us a little practice calling the tows on the VHF radio, telling them where we were, and asking whether they wanted us to pass “on the one whistle or the two whistles”, tow lingo for a port-to-port or starboard-to-starboard pass. It’s always their call!
At one point a tow with barges was maneuvering in the river, blocking the entire channel, so we waited about 15 minutes while he got settled along the shore.
Next up was the Electric Fish Barrier, sometimes called the Asian Carp Barrier. This 300-yard segment of the river has been electrified for the purpose of preventing the invasive species of carp from traveling upriver and infesting the Great Lakes. Boaters are required to call on the VHF to announce their entry and departure from the electrified area (only one boat is supposed to be in there at a time), wear life vests, and understand that if anyone falls overboard the Coast Guard will not initiate a rescue until the person has floated downstream and out of the electrified stretch.
Adrienne was amused to see her parents simultaneously deciphering an upcoming stretch of river with binoculars.
The travel day ended when we pulled into the town of Joliet and tied up to the free town wall which fortunately has electricity, as it was in the 90s, both temperature and humidity. There were six other Looper boats at the wall, and we chose to spend our last night with Adrienne and Justin on our boat, rather than joining what looked like a lively Looper gathering for docktails.
This place was much quieter and more comfortable than we’d been led to expect, and we felt entirely safe here.