Day 2 - Big Wind/Big Waves / Day 3 - a walk in the park

Day 2 -Highland Park  to Illinois Beach State Park

After having a gourmet breakfast at the Shear’s, Mary Jo drove me to Highland Park’s Park Avenue Beach.  Bill Burton was waiting for us.  He was planning on doing part of the trip to Illinois Beach State Park, but the forecast for 5 - 10 mph winds wasn’t happening.   The lake looked a lot like it did the day before…  In the interest of safety and given Bill’s experience it didn’t seem prudent for him to paddle back solo.  I appreciated having him there for the send off.   Mary Jo gave me lots of good advice:  take breaks, eat often, put on dry clothing…   don’t be afraid to stop and rest.

As it turned out that advice was exactly what I needed that day.  I launched at about 7:40AM into howling wind and confused seas off the pier at Highland Park.  I could see the “stacks” in the distance that were in Waukegan and the later stacks just before Illinois Beach.  If I took a bearing exactly to tose stacks I would be a couple of miles offshore which didn’t seem like a great idea givne the conditions.   The water temp was OK… low 60s, but the wind and waves were challenging.  There was a constant reminder of the 15 - 20 mph unrelenting wind in the whistling in my ears that didn’t stop.  The waves, after 2 days of a a Norteasterly blowing had become quite large…  4 - 6 feet…    very similar to conditions we faced on the CASKA Lake Michigan crossing attempt.  There wasn’t a small craft advisory, but there should have been.  The Nordkapp was fully loaded which actually was a blessing.  It was very stable and tracked and handled really well.  I paddled for 2 hours and looked at my GPS and realized I had only gone 5 miles…  I decided to take Mary Jo’s advice and put in at Lake Forest’s beach.  I warmed up, drank coffee and ate part of the sandwich Mary Jo had made… what a treat.  Exactly what I needed. 

I was in serious doubt about whether I was going to make it to Illinois Beach State Park.  The smokestacks looked really far away and I couldn’t imagine how I could continue fighting the wind and waves for another 13 miles.  I was really discouraged.  I passed Great Lakes Naval Base and thought about Russ who works there and how he let me try out his Nordkapp in the harbor there in a blinding sleet storm.  I considered paying him a visit but decided I needed to forge ahead.  I forged for another 4 hours to a beach at mile 13 of this segment.   It was right before the second set of smokestacks…  it was semi-portected and the winds were starting to die down.  I took about an hour break… warmed up, dried my gear and rested.  The wind died down to probably 5 - 10mph, still whistling in my ears, but maybe 2 - 3 foot waves not 4 - 6ft waves.  It appeared I was going to be able to make it.  Peggy, my wife, had said she would meet me at the take out and help me set up camp and haul gear.  She was a welcome sight!  the portage was probably 500 yards to the nearest campsite shich was behind the beach bath house immediately north of the main parking lot for the main beach.  This place begs for a water trail site thta is close to the water.  Right behind the beach house would be great. 

I am thinking about what gear to get rid of.  Do I really need a spare spray skirt?  Do I need those large metal bowls for eating or would small ones do?  What is the minimum amount of food I need to carry given the many places along the way where I can re-supply.  Do I need a clothes line/tarp line and a tow rope?  Do i have the right clothes and enough?

Day 3  Illinois Beach State Park to Sean Madden’s condo north of Kenosha. 

Sean is a cousin of Keith Heger of Northwest Passage fame.  Keith was originally thinking of paddling this segment with me, but with Stacey expecting any second now, he dicided he needed to be accessible.  His cousin, Sean, was kind enough to house me even with no Keith.  I am using his computer right now.  Sean could be Keith’s brother -  I felt like I already knew him.  Sean was still at work when I arrived, but his neighbor, Jeanne O’Brien, took pitty on the tired sailor and gave me dinner…  what a treat! 

Funny how talking about the end of the day came first…  I like the end a lot.  :-)

When I launched from Illinois Beach, after the long protage, I realized that I didn’t have my hat and gloves on.  I was so late in getting my act together and launching that I decided to keep going.  The wind was still whistling, but not incessantly and the waves were small… 2 - 3 feet tops.  I pulle into a beach just north of Winthrop Harbor and fixed my skeg (it was stuck).  I think this ios going to be a real problem with the Nordkapp.  If you do a seal launch, the skeg will be stuck.  Paddling solo does have it’s challenges.  I can’t have someone pull it down if there is no someone with me!  The winds died gradually all day and eventually were out of the east and the lake had 1 foot waves.  I stopped at Lake Front Park and rested, ate, dried off, bathed in the sun…  without the fierce winds Icould actulaly sit on the beach wthout being cold.  Lake Frint Park had an abandined bath house…  no facilities of any kind…  not even a water fountain.   Kenosha should be embarassed.  I then had a quiet, practically windless and waveless 5 miles to Sean.  Tomorrow (Wedensday) is almost a ”rest” day.   Only 13 miles to Cliffside Park north of Racine.  Peggy will meet me there again with supplies and help.      

Thuesday I have a long paddle, but the forecast is for winds out of the East/Southeast, so the 25 mile paddle past Milwaukee should be doable if the wind gods remain freindly.  I am looking forward to meeting up with the Irish Paddling Club who are going to join me for a stretch.  Also looking forward to staying at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center.

To bed.  I am beat. 


3 Responses to “Day 2 - Big Wind/Big Waves / Day 3 - a walk in the park”

  1. Russ Says:

    Welcome to WI Tom! I really wish I could be there, despite the weather you have been having.

    Something I have found useful in my Nordkapp, even in surf is to launch stern-first, pushing off with my legs, plopping my rear into the seat, and then pulling my legs into the cockpit. This will keep the skeg box clear of pebbles in most cases. They really do handle great while loaded .. don’t they?

    Keep your spirits up– the nice days are coming. Lake Superior has been great the past days and hopefully the weather holds out through the Symposium. Hope to catch you at Rock Island!


  2. Russ Says:

    Sorry.. me again. I wanted to remind you that there is NO good access to the campground at Cliffside from the water. It is a 0.4 mile bushwack from the south end ravine through the woods. I know we talked about this previously, but it was some time ago. If Peg will be there to shuttle, I recommend pulling up the steep hill at Crestview, which is the property to the south, and then car shuttling to the campground. Hope this finds you well.

  3. Greg d Says:

    Way to Go Tom, hope the day is met with a breeze at your back and ends with a comfy bed. Finnishing the front bay roof today. All will be complete except for the proch skylight and gutter. Best Wishes, greg d