Lake Michigan’s Chicago Area

41° 53.20 N  87° 35.80 W  A cruiser’s big city playground  (published June 2013)

There are many great sailing destinations around the world. Most people picture vast oceans and tropical climates, but for us, that place is the Chicago area of Lake Michigan. Known as the windy city, Chicago’s summer months deliver an excellent sailing experience. Lake Michigan is well known in the sailing community as the host of the Chicago to Mackinac Race, which is one of the oldest and longest freshwater distance races in the world. It is in these same waters though, that we find one of our favorite places to spend a weekend.

We keep our Hunter 33, Carpe Diem, at the East Chicago Marina in East Chicago, Ind. The sail from here to Chicago is only 18-miles and with a good wind it usually takes a little over two hours. Chicago is known for having one of the most beautiful skylines in the world, and the view from the lake proves just that; just faintly visible on the horizon as we set out and growing upon our approach.

Once in reach of the city we pass Burnham Harbor located near Soldier Field. Next to Burnham is a concert venue called Northerly Island Park. This is an outdoor venue that faces the water. On concert nights we like to drop anchor near shore, listen to the music and watch the bands perform on the venue’s large screen monitor. For the many boaters that gather here, catching a free concert while relaxing on a boat is not a bad deal at all.

Just north of Burnham is Monroe Harbor. When wind conditions aren’t ideal we like to motor in and tie up to the wall running along the famous Lake Shore bike path. We have two foldable bicycles that we use to cruise the path for a little sightseeing and sometimes we tie up overnight if there is something going on in the city. One year we docked here to attend Chicago’s largest music festival Lollapalooza.

Another year, during the 2007 Baseball NLDS playoffs, we cruised north to Belmont harbor, which runs adjacent to Wrigley Field on Chicago’s north side. We tied up and walked over to the field to attend the Cubs game and party in Wrigleyville before returning to the boat and heading back out on the lake.

During the warm days of summer, the “Play Penn”, which is located just north of Navy Pier, is a popular beach area where boats from the surrounding harbors anchor to swim, relax, party and enjoy the beautiful downtown scenery. The view is especially pleasing right before sunset when the sun is setting between the buildings. This area also provides a great overnight anchoring spot because of a protective wall that helps shield the waves during rougher conditions. By morning, it isn’t long till the boats return to the “Play Penn” and the party continues. After breakfast and a morning swim we spend the day sailing around the city until it’s time to return home. If wind conditions are right, we do a night sail back to the East Chicago Marina. Every summer we look forward to our weekend trips to the city that never disappoint us.