Chicago and the Chicago Sanitation Waterway

Chicago at Night

As we left Grand Haven, we quickly determined that the keyway issue with the prop was not, in fact, the cause of the vibration we were getting. We had suspected this, but were hoping against hope that this obvious running gear problem would have some effect on our situation. It really didn’t. But at least we had all the leaking through hulls replaced.

We tried to contact all of the Yanmar shops within hundreds of miles, again, with our new information that we really needed someone to plug in the Yanmar computer and verify that our problem was, indeed, the injection pump. At this time, the best quote we had for the injection pump was around 12,100$, and it also still required finding a Yanmar tech with the old computer to “link” it with the engine computer. So, even if we did just blindly pray and buy the part, we still needed to find a tech, which we had so far been completely unable to do. After hours on the phone and lots of messages, phone tag, and callbacks, we exhaustively demonstrated that virtually no one actually had that Yanmar computer, and of the couple shops that did, neither was willing to look at us until November 15th, which would have meant committing to getting the boat hauled for the winter and winterized, living in Chicago for the winter. So, after much frustration, and more calling Yanmar folks around the country, we decided that our best bet is likely to just head south to the gulf, limp along, and hope we make it down to the land of actual Yanmar service centers.

We’d spent a full week in Grand Haven, due to the horrible weather, and no other loopers had moved an inch in that week either. But it meant that we were starting on a Tuesday morning, with ~150 miles to go to Chicago. We did some guesstimates on likely morning hops and decided that we should be able to get to Chicago on Friday morning. We finally remembered that we can use our Seattle Yacht Club membership for reciprocal moorage, and made a reservation at the Chicago Yacht Club for a few days.

We headed south to St. Joseph, which actually had a perfectly adequate free wall to tie up to, just inside the breakwater to the lake, though it had no power. While maneuvering for final approach to the wall, something weird happened where it felt like the starboard motor didn’t shift into forward and we ended up lightly bumping the swim platform into a notch on the wall. It appeared to just be a small scratch, but it didn’t fill me with confidence. It seemed to shift fine after that, so I didn’t know what to think. We ended up getting way too much ice cream at a local shop here, and got a pile of pizza for takeout and a couple meals of leftovers.

The next morning, we headed down to Michigan City. Pulling out, the shifter didn’t work one time of a few attempts, so we verified it had started being flaky. We’d been looking at diesel prices for a while, and saw that this was our cheapest diesel for quite a while, so we planned to fill up. When we arrived, we pulled into the diesel dock and … didn’t fit. It was probably about 17 feet wide between the finger pier and the piling. Also, as I was pulling in to check width, the starboard motor wouldn’t go into forward again, and the dock area was very tight. So we just stayed wedged into the piling, just close enough to get the diesel hose to both of our fill spots. Hannah filled up the tanks while I went down and cleaned up the contacts on the shift solenoids, which then let us actually shift reliably again. Then, going from the diesel dock into our assigned slip, the port motor wouldn’t go into reverse at a crucial moment, and we lightly tagged the pier there too, with no damage. So, then I got to take apart the port shift solenoids and clean them. Kind of freaky that both sides independently started being flaky 24 hours apart from each other, but it’s definitely time to replace those.

Michigan City was otherwise uneventful. The next morning, we took an early leg to get the rest of the way to the Chicago Yacht Club. This was a fabulous location – the night skyline photo at the header of this post is taken from our dock! We arrived in the middle of the week, so had a few hard days of work, but we did manage to make same-day reservations at Porto, a Portuguese and Spanish restaurant. We sat at the chef’s table and got to watch our meal prepared and chat with the chef. Dinner was so delicious, you basically had to roll us out!

Our traditional Michelin star restaurant sign selfie

We met up with Dan and Alana for dinner at the yacht club on Friday night. We also have a friend who is a recent graduate of the Chicago Institute of Art, Amay, so we met up with and we met up with to see the museum. In particular, he wanted to see the Barbara Kruger special exhibit. It was not a very subtle exhibit.

I was sad to have walked by and missed all the historical sections of the museum, but I did get to see American Gothic on the way and then we spend some time in the modern wing where we saw Rothkos and Pollocks, which I know mum and Auntie Helen would have appreciated, but were probably wasted on David and I. We’ll have to come back again so that I can see the impressionists :).

View from the top of the Art Institute

The weather at the beginning of the week was looking pretty bad, and both David and I had extremely busy mornings scheduled, meaning it would be very hard to make it for the next stretch which would be at least 50 miles, since we did not want to stay on the free wall at Joliet, where Loopers for several days in a row had been reporting that locals were coming by and cutting their lines in the middle of the night.

On our last night in Chicago, we walked home from dinner through the park by the marina, which turned out to be the location of the famous Bean! It was actually quite moving (for me) to see the sky scrapers reflected in its surface, with the greenery of the park behind us.

The next morning, we woke up extremely early, along with our neigbours from the Yacht Club with whom we coordinated for this leg of the trip. We had no trouble going through the main lock, and then enjoyed a great morning cruising through downtown Chicago. We apparently made it on the news as the weather live-cam cut right to the moment that we were entering the city!

We passed the Joliet wall and noticed with irony that directly across the river from the free+crime wall is a police station!

While we had originally planned to anchor, we decided in the last minute to pull into a Harborside Marina along with our companions from Chicago, and another Looper boat that we met in the lock. We all met up in the bar for dinner that night. Now that we are safely in the Illinois River, we can breathe easy about not getting stuck on the frozen Lake Michigan for the winter.

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