Monday, September 16, 2019

Chicago to Joliet

Yesterday, thunderstorms. Today, fog. It's like pulling teeth getting these next couple of hundred of miles down. Moreover, we're doing it on a clock, trying to get through the Starved Rock lock before Sept 20. And Mother Nature is not making it easy.

We wanted to get an early start. We wanted get beyond Joliet. Besides, many told us how "magical" it is to go through downtown Chicago at dawn. That sounded so cool.

We woke at 5 am surrounded by every mariners nightmare, fog. Thick fog. Pea soup kind of fog. We needed to pump out before getting underway, so we did. And the fog got thicker. Chats with other boats led to a decision to wait in hopes it cleared. By 8:30 am we could (at least) see the land at the end of the pier. In the back of everyones' minds was that the locks are still unkind -- very slow, no place to wait, no priority, and getting into marinas long after dark. Something loopers are not found of. Well, this one, in particular.

Can't see land at the end of the pier
So we braved the fog, making our way across Lake Michigan one last time to the entrance of the Chicago Harbor lock. It's unnerving being on the water and not being able to see anything. I drove by instruments, following the blue line our Navionics laid out while keeping another eye out for any vessel our radar or AIS were missing. The lockmaster even told us he couldn't see a thing, so when we got close we had to hail him.

As the lock doors opened on the other side the fog lifted somewhat, enough to see other vessels on the river. The fog slowly lifted, and we got some views of Chicago's skyscrapers. At least the bottoms of them.

Starting to clear. At least I can see boats,
The longer we journeyed, the more the fog lifted. While a good chunk of the trip (once out of the city) was industrial, we did see quite a bit of wildlife. 

One of the restrictions on this particular route is a bridge that does not raise, a railroad bridge at mile 320. If you can't fit under it you can't go through downtown, but rather have to take a longer route from Calumet. We measured our height a number of times, making sure we'd squeak under the 17 foot. Otherwise, we'd have to pull over and take off our radar mount. 

Almost clear!
Not only did we make it, we did so with a foot of clearance. In fact, there was a water depth board on that bridge, something we haven't seen since the Intercoastal Waterway. NO ONE MENTIONED THAT. In all the blogs and postings, for heaven's sake, people, tell us there was an easy way to know.

We traveled beyond Joliet to get held up a the very next lock. It looked like it would be a long wait. Felt longer, since I was tired from our early rise. We doubled back, and parked on the Joliet wall for the night.
Just when I thought, "I wonder if there are any deer here,"
I look up and there he was!

Lots of Blue Herons. Haven't seen any since Canada.

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