To Hammond, Ind. (Day 35)

Hammond Marina (part of it)

The 20th port of our boat journey is a bit of a shocker. It’s a long walk, maybe a half-mile, to the marina office. Music floats over from nearby boats, often loudly. We need a key to enter and exit the docks. And, this marina has 900 slips!

We’re not in the U.P. any more.

We’re grateful to be here, just the same. We had a narrow weather window today for the nearly 40-mile crossing from New Buffalo. After dockside consultations with our fellow Loopers, we decided to try it, giving ourselves the option to turn around. We left late enough for the swells from the recent north winds to calm some, and early enough to avoid the predicted northeasters. It worked for about three hours; the swells were 4-5 feet, but widely spaced so manageable. It felt pretty lonely out there, as we saw no other boats. (We could see several moving elsewhere on Lake Michigan, through our boat-tracking app, but none near enough for us to see.) We noted our passage from Michigan into Indiana, and from the eastern to central time zone. The first good glimpse of the Chicago skyline came less than two hours into the four-hour trip.

The last hour was rough, though, as swells intersected with wind-blown waves and with waves bouncing off the approaching land. A confused sea begets confused stomachs. We both took dramamine, for only the 2nd time on the trip. We used music to distract ourselves. When the signal wasn’t strong enough for SiriusXM, I played my harmonica. Jeff got pretty sick just before arrival, which made me nervous as I haven’t yet docked the boat in a strange marina and hope to never be in that position. But we worked together to get his system righted again, just in time.

The price is right here, too — less than half the price of a slip in Chicago, only 10 miles away.

Our arrival here was almost as unsettling as the last hour of crossing. We stopped at the fuel dock just inside the harbor entrance to register and get our slip assignment, as requested. (Since the main office is so far away, they offer this alternate check-in.) We saw four boats already at the fuel dock, so Jeff “milled about” for awhile until a few left and made room for us. We got our slip assignment and a map showing us where to go. (Remember….900 slips!) There are no dock-hands here to grab lines. A stiff east wind was blowing. A kayak belonging to the neighboring boat floated at the end of our slip. A very large black post marked one side of our slip, seemingly blocking the entrance, which looked very narrow. Jeff proved his increasing skills in boat handling as he turned the boat around in the fairway — the waterway between docks — for a better approach. We bumped the black post, which turned out to be soft and probably meant for that purpose, and then bumped the dock. Those consecutive bumps put us exactly where we needed to be, but we were coming in fast, blown in by the wind now at our stern. For once, I managed to put the amidship line exactly where I wanted it — around the middle post of the dock. (I’m still rather clumsy at line handling. My fellow Navy officers would be dismayed. 😉 ) We both had to jump off onto the dock in order to secure the boat.

And now we sit, quite secure, in this bizarre boat-city in the midst of industrial Indiana, wondering how to make the most of our proximity to Chicago. Perhaps we’ll take the train into the city tomorrow. Photos and captions below.

We consulted our fellow Loopers before deciding to leave this morning. Such dockside consultations are common, but we know that each boat handles differently. In the end, the “go/no-go” decision is ours alone.
It was hard to leave these seven “Looper boats” behind. It’s a peculiar thing about doing The Great Loop — you make friends just in time to leave them. Sort of like the military. It was also odd to be the first ones to leave. Our fellow Loopers questioned us on our decision, for good reason. They will face the same questions tomorrow, though. It’s that time of year when the winds are getting more and more bothersome.

Leaving New Buffalo, and its prevalent duck weed, behind.
This is the Hammond marina map. 900 slips! Ours wasn’t very far from the fuel dock. (See arrows.)
Many Moons tied up at the Hammond dock, our neighbor’s kayak under our bow. (And its red line around our cleat!) The yellow cord connects us to shore power and brings electricity onto the boat.
We try to eat healthfully on the boat. Chicken is handy for many things, including this stir-fry with squash and zucchini on noodles (with fresh parmesan cheese on top! Even boat life calls for a few indulgences. 😉 )

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