Saturday, September 7, 2019

Miller lite

We are underway southbound in Lake Michigan, some 30+ miles north of Chicago as I begin typing. I can already see the top of the Willis Tower and maybe a dozen other buildings. It's a marathon 11-hour day for us, taking advantage of the last really good day for a while.

Our view last night. The extra bits of color between buildings is an artifact of using night mode on a swinging boat.

We had a nice visit in Milwaukee, if a bit shorter than I would have liked, at just a single night. Two nights would have been better and three perfect, but that was not an option: it was either one or at least five, maybe more, cutting short our time in Chicago.

Our early start yesterday paid off, and we were through the Milwaukee Harbor breakwater before 11am, and tied to the fuel dock at McKinley Marina, in the park of that name, by 11. It turned out that we beat the fuel delivery truck by over an hour, with the 68' Sea-Ray just before us cleaning out the last of their old stock. We could not start pumping fuel until 12:30. In the meantime we pumped out our waste tanks, filled the water tank, and had lunch.

Vector at anchor in Milwaukee. Tender is at the Discovery World across the harbor; docks in the foreground are a state park that wanted money.

We had room for maybe 900+ gallons, but their dispensers automatically shut off at just over 405, so we ended up taking on 810 gallons at the best price on the lakes, $2.469 per gallon. Bunkering took a full 90 minutes, and we shoved off for the very short cruise across the harbor to Discovery World Bay, a tiny protected harbor-within-a-harbor adjacent to the interactive child-oriented science museum of the same name. We dropped the hook right in the middle by 2:30 (map).

We splashed the tender and I headed ashore with the e-Bike, tying up at the Discovery World public dock. Signs regarding dock fees had been blanked out; I think they're done for the season. I made a whirlwind tour of Milwaukee, running northalong the harborfront and then west to the river before heading south into the historic Third Ward, around by the river entrance and under the highway bridge, and back along the harborfront past the Henry Maier Festival Park and back to the dock.

Pabst Theater.

It was an interesting, if brief, tour, and I passed a few landmarks including Pere Marquette Park, the historic Pabst Theater, the Milwaukee Public Market, and numerous well-kept historic buildings made of the cream-colored brick that gives the city its nickname. Urban renewal is well along in downtown Milwaukee, which sports a good mix of residential, commercial, and retail. A nice riverwalk is mostly complete along the historic river.

Milwaukee River across from Pere Marquette Park.

We returned ashore to the same dock at dinner time and walked a few blocks north to the University Club, overlooking Juneau Park and the lakefront. We crossed the very busy Lincoln Memorial Drive on the fancy cantilevered suspension pedestrian bridge attached to the equally swoopy and modern Milwaukee Art Museum. It was perfect weather for an evening stroll.

City Hall Clock Tower.

When we returned to Vector we hip-tied the dinghy and left it in the water. The forecast at that time suggested a slight possibility we might be able to stay one more night. But at 7 this morning is was clear that tomorrow would be much rougher than today, and, not wanting to risk it deteriorating further and pinning us in Milwaukee for the better part of a week, we decked the tender and were headed our of our cozy little anchorage by 7:20.

The city is full of well-kept architecture.

We had big three-foot rollers for the first couple of hours, tapering off as we made the turn to a more southerly course just off Racine. We've been on the same heading for 25 miles, with nearly 30 still to go. Seas have been dropping throughout the day and it's a very comfortable ride now. The plotter says anchor down around 6:30, and we'll be glad to have a beer and a nice dinner aboard.

I normally would not post like this two days in a row, but this is our last "at sea" time until we leave Chicago, in about a week. I know from experience that it's hard to make time to blog while we are in port. We have only one more open water passage ahead of us, from Chicago to Calumet, where we start the Illinois Waterway (IWW) portion of the trip.

Public Market in the historic Third Ward.

Speaking of which, three of the IWW locks are scheduled to shut down for maintenance at 6am on September 21st. They will not reopen again until October 5th, or perhaps later if anything goes sideways. Thus much of the "hustle" we've been doing here in Lake Michigan has had the objective of getting us to the other side of those locks before the closure. Of course, if I had been (or still get) deployed for the Red Cross, we'll miss that window and will have to wait until they reopen.

That's not any sort of crisis; everything here in the lakes is still open through mid-October and the weather, while cooler, is still comfortable. And if I get deployed now, at least we'll be in Chicago, where I know the airports are easily (and inexpensively) accessible. Plus, Vector can ride on a relatively inexpensive mooring here that comes with tender service so Louise can come and go as needed.

A towboat pushes a large barge under the Hoan Bridge on its way to the lake.

In order to have enough buffer at each of the locks to accommodate waiting several hours (commercial tows, which will be scrambling to get through, have priority) and also to time the infamous low bridge in Lemont at a reasonable pool level, we have set a target of departing Chicago no later than the morning of the 15th. A day or two earlier than that would give us a more comfortable margin of error.

That gives us about a week, knowing that the September lake conditions, as we've seen, can be finicky. We'll be watching the lake forecasts carefully as the time comes, and we'll leave when we have good conditions as far as Hammond, Indiana. My next post here will likely be under way from Chicago in about a week.

1 comment:

  1. Sean & Louise,

    We love your blog! Thank you so much for documenting your amazing adventures for the last umpteen years! Speaking of adventures, we are the proud new owners of a Neoplan Spaceliner, the exact same one you're thinking of! We'd love to get into contact with you both!

    Ben & Christine


Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!