November 18, 1998 in Log Series 02 - 07, Logs by Series, Series 05 Chicago - Illinois River, The Logs


I wanted to start this log at the same time we are transitting the Illinois River while the impressions are new and fresh, as contrasted with the logs of the Great Lakes which I am slowly getting caught up on. This is the reason I numbered this 5a as it may be changed to an appropriate sequence number when I get up to date with our arrival in Chicago..


We arrived and anchored inside the breakwater of Chicago just off the Ohio Street beach. This is just north of the filtration plant and the famed Chicago Navy Pier. We had the whole bay to ourselves, with a fantastic view of the downtown skyscrapers, including the Hancock Centre, and the Sears Tower, as well as the tallest condominiums in the world and the gigantic ferris wheel at Navy Pier. A variety of tour and party boats circled through occasionally, including one large yacht with a helicopter on its after deck. We later found out that this too was a tour boat out of Navy Pier, and that the helicopter, although an original Bell helicopter, was just the shell as the coast guard would not allow a chopper engine and the associated fuel tanks to be on a passenger vessel in the Chicago harbour area. However, it looked impressive at first glance. From this anchorage we could see the downtown traffic and the joggers running along the paved banked lakeside pathway. It was quite a pleasant anchorage.


We were surprised, as many people we talked to said there were no free secure anchorages in the Chicago area, and we thought we would have to pay an arm and a leg at any local yacht clubs, especially with the record low of the Canadian dollar. which is below $0.66 U.S. That means that something that costs U.S. $10.00 costs Canadian $15.00. So, we prefer to anchor whenever possible.

We were told by Rebel Yell, a power yacht that has gone down the river before, of another anchorage possible inside the first control lock. However, others said it was doubtful and there were no anchorages in the area. Well, we went through the first control lock, turned left past the Marine Police Unit and found a large camber with only one derelict dock on one side, an end wall with a party barge and some Water Conservation vessels, and on the third side, a long concrete shoreline wall with a paved lakeside pathway beside it. There were no boats alongside this wall, and notices stencilled “Docking by permit only”. We dropped anchor on the far side of the camber, and that was our location for the next six nights.

On the opposite side of the end wall with the party barge was the Columbia Yacht Club, “housed” in an old car ferry, the Abegwit, which used to ply the Northumberland Strait between Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. We found the people there very friendly and helpful. The converted passenger accommodations made for a very luxurious and comfortable club, with a dark panelled bar, a full restaurant with full time cooks and stewards, a library, meeting rooms, club office, the bridge (nicely renovated for special use), a wide variety of meeting rooms,and another bar and snack area as well as plenty of work and storage space on the car decks. They only had a long floating dock for day mooring, and to store their dry sail dinghy fleet. However, they also had a crane on the upper deck which they used to help us remove our mast and place it on the cradle we had constructed for it.


(Judy at the spreaders removing the sling from the mast after it was stepped)

Helping us there were five of their club members plus Paul, a Brit who is sailing a sea going trawler and anchored in the outer camber with us a day after we had arrived. There was no charge for this assistance, but we made a $50.00 donation to their Junior Sailing Program. (There was another enterprising gentleman by the name of Harry who operated American Salvage and Diving and who had a truck crane permanently parked on the public wall of the camber, and who would have gladly helped us step the mast for $5.00 a foot {5 x 47 = $235.00})To bring Veleda around to their dock we had to weigh anchor, go out through the control lock, around the inner breakwater down to their entrance and back up to the ferry clubhouse, a distance of about 1.5 miles. We stayed at their dock for about seven hours to assemble our mast cradle, place the mast on it, secure everything, take on fresh water and socialize. One club member gave us a ride into town to a large grocery store for supplies. (We have had six occasions so far on our trip where people have taken us into the local town for supplies, and in one case lent us her car.) Many of their members dropped by to talk and to wish us well. The pleasant envy of many of them for the odyssey upon which we are embarked was stated frequently. We left Chicago wih fond memories of the Columbia Yacht Club.

While anchored in the camber, we visited Navy Pier, the Science and Technology Museum, the library, the G.L.C.C. headquaters, picked up new bearings for the roller furling, and a new transducer for our depth sounder. I went to see STOMP, a great performance of percussion rhythms using every day items such as garbage cans, brooms, pots and pans, hub caps, newspapers, plastic bags, PVC pipes, sandpaper, buckets, bed pans, cans, sinks, barrels, and various body parts.

At the G.L.C.C. office we made our submission for the Bayfield Award for 5000 miles of sailing in all the Great Lakes. We had a chart of the Great Lakes indicating all our cruises with over 5500 nautical miles of sailing for the last three years. We had a cruise by cruise account on our laptop, but did not have any way to make a hard copy of it. So I went into one office, hooked up to E-mail and sent an E-mail 20 feet to the office manager’s desk so she then could download a hard copy. “Ain’t technology wonderful!” We also used the hookup to download and send our own E-mail. We appreciated the co-operation of Toni in the office for these arrangements with E-mail and other local knowledge.

In the camber we encountered very high winds for two days. The second day we went alongside the public wall as the winds were howling at 35 to 45 knots. There were no waves as the camber was small enough, but I didn’t want to take a chance with the wind. Now I know why Chicago is called the “Windy City”.

We departed our anchorage at 0810 on Sept 30 and started through the first bridge at 0814 at Mile 327 downbound through the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal. The mileage indicated on the chart is in statute miles from the mouth of the Illinois River where it empties into the Mississippi. The river chart booklet was not available, and apparently is very difficult to get. We could not get it from any of the dealers in Toronto before we left. They could not even order it for us. So, while in Sault Ste. Marie, we photocopied from the original chart booklet (over 70 pages) that was provided to us by Rod Brown on Ino, an Alberg 30 we met coming down Lake Superior. He in turn had borrowed the book from Jim Massey whom we had met up in Thunder Bay a week earlier. Our photocopied booklet was in turn copied by our Brit friend Paul whom we passed en route through the Mackinac Strait, and who anchored in the camber with us in Chicago. Paul was sailing a 35 foot trawler, Dreamweaver, out of Hull, England , and had crossed the Atlantic in it with his wife and two teenaged sons. He is heading south too and came over to see if we had the relevant charts.that he might copy. His wife Linda went to the library as there were still some charts we did not have. She found them there, and so we went to the library also to copy out the additional charts we still needed.

Paul left Chicago the day before us on Sept. 29. Rod, on Ino, left Chicago the morning we arrived in the camber on Sept. 25. He too took his mast down at the Columbia Yacht Club docks, but according to one of their members, he ran into some difficulties and may have incurred some damage. We hope it was not too bad. He was single handing his boat from the Sault to Chicago where he was joined by his son to step the mast and start down the Illinois River. His wife has given him one year to do a circumnavigation, down the Mississippi, around, and back up the east coast through the Great Lakes and home. We will probably meet up with him and with Paul again along the way someplace. This is an enjoyable aspect of the camaraderie amongst sailors, whether they be at sea such as Paul and Rod, or whether they be at their marinas or boats, such as the people who drove us into town for supplies. It is an interesting life!

More about our journey through the Chicago bridges and into the Illinois River next log.