September 10 – 16
Our first Wisconsin port was the small town of Kewanee, almost directly across the lake from Frankfort. We had a couple of options, but since time might be a factor, we opted to stop here. Since it took only 4 hours, 15 minutes to cross, we were in good shape, arriving at 5:30, or so we thought. The restaurant recommended at the Inner Harbor Marina office was only about a half mile away, we were told, so we decided to walk. We felt that his estimate was more than a little short, proving that even men are poor judges of distance. But the Cork restaurant was worth the walk; good, reasonably priced food and an entertaining singer/guitar player. We just couldn’t figure out why so many people were still coming in for dinner at 8:30 on a Wednesday night when closing time was 9:00. Until one of us suddenly remembered that we had crossed into the Central Time Zone while crossing the lake! It was only 7:30, and already very dark. This time zone is not our favorite, and we’ll be in it for a few weeks. It won’t be until the Chattanooga, TN, area that we will get back into Eastern Time Zone. Left Kewanee the next morning in mist and light fog, planning to get as far south as we could. We stopped for fuel in Sheboygan, WI, and thought about getting a slip there; it was a pretty big town and looked like nice, but we decided we wanted to go further. Bad decision, but we wouldn’t find that out for a few days. While fueling, a couple walking by called out to us because they saw our AGLCA burgee (one of the triangular flags on the bow, the other one is for the Port Huron Power Squadron), and told us they were also members doing the Loop. They had a slip here, but we decided to stick to our plan. We got as far as little Port Washington, and thought we would stop here for one night. Ha! We ended up getting fogged in for three days! Not much to do here, especially in bad weather, but we met some great people. We were tied up on the wall next to a busy little boardwalk in front of some shops, and many people stopped to chat. One semi-retired couple, both U of W professors, came to get us in the rain in their SUV and took us out to dinner to one of this town’s big Friday night fish-fry restaurants, where we had a delightful time. Oh, and that couple we talked with in Sheboygan, snapped a picture of our boat as we left the harbor and e-mailed it to us the next day. Great people. Great places. Great times. We finally had a day when it looked clear enough and the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather report that we listen to on our VHF radios issued a satisfactory report, so we decided to leave. Boy, were they wrong! The first 19 miles, which took 4 hours, were four of the worst of the entire trip. This certainly rivaled that Friday the Thirteenth last December, in Key West, but we were in this nasty weather for a lot longer. It didn’t look too bad leaving the harbor, but the further we went, the worse it got. We encountered fog so dense we couldn’t see 50 feet in any direction and waves that were 6 to 8 feet. We got to a point where we thought about going back, but thought that might be worse than staying on course. Needless to say, the tension was as thick as the fog. We had all our running lights on and our foghorn sounding on its automatic setting. Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, we heard another foghorn very nearby, but we couldn’t see the vessel. After straining to see in every direction, First Mate finally could just barely make out the silhouette of a tall ship that had left the same port earlier in the morning. It was comforting and really scary at the same time; comforting to know where it was, but frightening to see how close it was. Local knowledge is a fact of boating that we had read about and experienced during this trip, and locals here had said sometimes there is less or no fog 5 miles off shore. Key word being sometimes, we thought it better to stay closer to shore; we were about a mile out. Having studied the charts earlier, First Mate knew the port of Milwaukee was now our goal. Suddenly, just as we approached the city, the fog just completely disappeared and the seas calmed down as though we had crossed from the twilight zone back to reality. We were so shaken, knowing we had just experienced Lake Michigan at or near it’s worst. All we had heard was true! The sooner we got off this lake, the better. Since the weather had cleared, we decided to push on to Winthrop Harbor, IL. First Mate’s brother Randy, who lives in a northwest suburb of Chicago and who had never seen our boat, drove up, joined us for dinner and spent the evening on board. A very good ending to a day like we hope never to have again. The next day we passed Chicago’s Navy Pier, viewing the city skyline from the water, and cruised on to Hammond, IL. We fueled up at a really good price for the area, relaxed a bit, and walked over to the casino next door for a feast. We could have spent the night eating; in fact, I think we did. The weather was great now that we were almost out of this most dreaded of the Great Lakes.