Tied to a dock in downtown Chicago, I realized it’s time for a third quarter check in.
We’ve gone about 4,000 miles since beginning this trip in Mobile, Ala. six months ago. The waterway guides say we have 1,200 miles to go, traveling through the inland waterways of Middle America.
It’s fall and we’ll be heading down the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal (yup, that’s what it was used for), to the Illinois River, then on to the Mississippi, the Ohio, the Tennessee, and Tombigbee rivers as we head south.
Since our last check in from Brewerton, New York, we’ve gone through the Oswego Canal, across Lake Ontario to Kingston, Canada, then over to Trenton and the beginning of the Trent-Severn Waterway and its 44 locks. From there we entered Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay, its North Channel, then we went over to the Straits of Mackinac and entered Lake Michigan.
Lake Michigan was a challenge because it’s long and the prevailing wind is from the southwest, creating bigger waves on the eastern shore. We expected the trip down and around to Chicago to take ten or twelve days. It took 32 days, with many days in ports waiting for the lake waters to flatten and wind to subside. The State of Michigan knows these waters and has installed ports of refuge about every 20 miles, just in case someone is caught in an unexpected squall.
My favorite city was Kingston, Canada with its rich, well-preserved history. The most exciting adventures were the Chute, a lock that’s really a marine railway, and the Bathtub, a lift lock that takes you up in a water-filled box almost five stories into the air. Oddest observance? Killarney in the North Channel had docks for its stores and eateries. That’s because there were no roads to the town until recently. Best surprise? Public art is everywhere in Michigan…harbor entrances, downtown streets, parks, roadsides.
Biggest disappointment was not getting to visit Mackinac Island and its Grand Hotel. We couldn’t afford to stay there, but had planned to tour and then a weather window opened and we had to go.
The rest of the trip will be in protected waters, the only hazards being underwater dams, flash floods, tornado threats, old locks that don’t always work well, and lots of tugs pushing multiple barges.
Capt. Mark will handle them, I’m sure.