The hum of the motor was so loud that I couldn’t stay awake. The warmth of the sun and the calmness of the sparkling water was mesmerizing. My bookmark slipped onto the seat.
It had been an early morning. We caught the Amtrak in Holland at 6:54 a.m. on a Saturday in mid-September. The mist and gray gave way to an orange glow out of the grimy window. Cliff and I chatted on the way to Union Station. After choosing a sandwich and a couple large water bottles we hailed a cab to the marina around 11 a.m. Michigan time. The cab driver aggressively delivered us to the marina where we had purchased the boat. Two Saturdays before, we had boarded the Silverton to check it out. Cliff had come a second time to do a survey on the boat. All things had met his approval so today we came to drive it home.
It was our “train to cab to boat” adventure. We had never taken a boat trip to or from Chicago before so this was all new territory for us. Boarding the boat, we dropped our two small bags we had taken along, found the keys, unhooked the electrical cord and the ropes, and simply began our trek. I felt as if we were stealing the boat. Asking a random man on the docks where the gas dock was, we proceeded along through the very large marina. Looming in front of us Willis tower and other skyscrapers stretched into the clear blue sky. The sun was bright and warm. No wind, no fog.
The two tanks needed to be filled to the brim. The boat had been neglected for a long time, so we knew it would require repairs and much cleaning. I was on offense and defense with a large jug of spider killer and a brush I found. Right now we just wanted to get it home to the west side of Michigan. Cliff realized he would need to forego normal means of navigation, so he “plotted a course” on his phone. He set it toward St. Joseph to the northeast 65 miles.
The Chicago skyline slowly became smaller and smaller. We knew we were incredibly blessed with the weather. We’ve boated on Lake Michigan for 30 years and realize she can change in a big hurry. It can be a serene lake and then a beast searching for prey. The water was shining in small ripples like millions of diamonds. We could see the skyline for at least one and a half hours.
On the starboard side Cliff spotted what he thought was Gary, later New Buffalo, then Bridgman. We were still going in a northeast direction so we didn’t get very close to those cities. The temperature was around 85 degrees and we guessed the water to be between 60-65 even in the middle of the lake. Many of our gauges and equipment needed tuning so we didn’t have readings. We were thankful for the working refrigerator with sealed water bottles inside since we needed much more hydration.
We had thought we would have at least an hour when we couldn’t see any land, but there was really not much time we didn’t. You can’t see land from more than 20 miles because of the curvature of the earth over the horizon, even on a very clear day. So we were fortunate to have a crisp day and we stayed near enough to the edge of the bottom of the lake to keep land in sight.
After a couple hours we spotted St. Joseph. It seemed like we had it made now that we were on the west side of Lake Michigan. But it took a couple more hours before we were close enough to get a decent picture of it. We have boated on the west coast of Lake Michigan for so many years but we have never been that far south. After another hour we were near South Haven. We just kept coasting along. That’s when the roar of the motors just seemed to lull me to sleep. Cliff had set the “auto-pilot” of the boat, so all he had to do was watch for anything that might be in front of us. He didn’t even have to steer the boat. The radar wasn’t working either so he would stand up occasionally and kept a watchful eye.
Being able to read a book while riding in the front seat of a boat is very unusual. The book dropped down a few times and my eyelids were heavy. The sun was warm but not terribly hot. For much of the time the water was completely calm and flat. I didn’t move around much because the boat was dirty. The spiders were at bay for the time being and I was just hoping to get home without encountering any more of them. Soon we passed South Haven, then Saugatuck. Now we were really in familiar territory!
We had left Chicago at noon our time, and now at 6:30 p.m. we purred past the beloved Big Red Lighthouse of Holland, Michigan. She sure was a welcome sight! A half an hour later we were backing into our slip at the Yacht Basin Marina. Ah, to be home! The seven hour trip was long. It was an adventure but surely didn’t come without stress and concerns.
Cliff thought the boat sounded strange the last half hour. When we got into the slip and were tying up, he confirmed that we had run out of gas! You see, the gas gauge was another thing that didn’t happen to work.
We thank the Lord for his wonderful favor on the trip, the weather, and the blessing of the boat.