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Date Created: 02/18/2010 Hits:


A couple of years ago I went shopping for a new marina closer to Chicago.  I had been in the northern Illinois / Wisconsin Border area for about 5 years with my boat and was getting bored with it.  Luckily that when you have a boat, you're not married to a marina like as if you had a mortgage with a house.  You can move your boat to stay in any marina that you want. 

I'd been wanting to get into the Chicago Marina system for years but in order to do so, you have to be on a waiting list for years or get a mooring can in one of the Chicago Harbors and then put in for a transfer.  The slip would be about $5,000+ per year (if I were a resident).  As a NON Resident, the rate is closer to $9,000.00 per year.  A little bit better than that is a slip in Hammond which has the cheapest fuel around, a slip is about $4000 per season resident or not. 

As an alternative to a Chicago slip, i've found slips on the Cal Sag River / Canal which is only 8-14 miles from the lake and then 13.5 miles to downtown Chicago.  Round trip and spending the weekend in the playpen would only cost about $100 round trip.  Even less if we idled it all the way there and back.  Also, if we took the river, it's a 2 hour trip by river back to the marina.  Either way we have to do at least one lock. 

That was a couple of years ago that I wrote most of what was above.  Now that I've spent a couple years on the river, I have a wealth of knowledge to lend to other boaters. 

The marina which I had chose for the 2010 season was Marine Services in Dolton, IL.  It seems to have nice docks without the corner dock boxes which I loved not having!  Reason I like that so much is that by not having that box, if you have a 40 foot boat, you can get a 40 foot slip!  You just back in all the way to the main pier which makes getting on and off the boat super easy for litterally anyone of any age.  Even if my kids were still crawling, they'd be able to crawl right on the boat! 

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The one thing which I took at face value was that the owner of the marina told me face to face that the garbage dump next door was dormant and hadn't been used in years and was a non issue.  Not really the case.  Yes, at night and on weekends, there is noone working in the dump but every morning and till 3pm, the dump has it's top layer scraped off and they add more trash to the dump.  PHEWWW!!!!  It stinks bad!  And with the Jet Stream pumping the wind in out of the west/northwest all the time, it makes the marina smell bad nearly all the time.  The other thing that I have to say is that if you have a boat with a nice finish, you might want to reconsider taking your boat there.  There is a guy who walks the docks every day powerwashing bird crap, chicken bones, and other things off of all the boats from the birds which pick up food waste from the dump fly over to the marina, and eat & crap on the docks and boats all day long.  The people which run the marina are nice but the latter kind of makes it a look and continue kind of place...

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There really isn't much in the way of dock parties there.  But there are some late night bible worshipping groups that seem to jam some of the other docks. 

If you only want to park your boat and never spend any time in the marina, it's an adequate place that will save you about 25 minutes from some nicer places down the river. 

-----------------------------------Today we update the style...

Just around the corner from Marine Services is a place that has well protected and well hidden slips from the river traffic.  Pier 11 has fixed height steel docks that are a challenge to pull into if you are not well experienced.  They are steel.  And can scrape up your boat if you're not careful.  Most of the people are nice and the marina staff are great people to deal with service wise as well as to work with the boaters.  They have repossessed and brokered yachts for sale.  And for that matter, some pretty good deals on boats in Chicago.  I had a problem with another boater in the marina and decided to leave one afternoon because I had found a true gem on the river!

Pier 11 Marina

Just another 4 miles down river there is a place called Fay's Point Marina which is a resort like townhouse community which has 2-3 bedroom townhouses for sale.  There is also room for more development but with the stalled economy the development is also stalled.  For the marina, there is ample parking that is well protected and hidden from all roads and visibility from virually all angles.  The marina is a single pier with 88 slips ranging in size from 35-40 feet.  Even if you have a little runabout the slip cost is incredible.  For a 40 foot slip I pay $1600 per season.  This marina has docks just like at Marine Services where there are no corner dock boxes to eat up that 4-5 feet of space at the beginning of the dock.  You can pull in all the way up to the pier and walk right on and off your boat!  It's peaceful even though you can see HWY I-57 from the docks and what's better is that there are no railroads that you have to sit and wait at to get into and out of the marina. 

Fays Point Marina

Just across the river is an Ultra Foods, Aldi, Subway, Wendy's, McDonalds, Burger King, Beggars Pizza, White Castle, Dunkin Doughnuts, gas stations and lots of other businesses to get what you need to load up on supplies.

 Right now, I believe that there are only 17 of the 88 slips even spoken for.  Mine included.  Tonight, I was sitting here looking at Google Earth and thinking that I should share some of the data about the time and cost to get to and from Chicago every weekend that I went boating last summer. 

To get to Chicago by way of the river, going through the lock which takes about 30-45 minutes normally is a total of about 27 miles which get's you to Navy Pier by the Chicago Lock.  13 miles of that is on the lake, 14 of which is on the river at idle speeds.  On the other hand, going down the river towards Lemont, and then up the Chicago River is 40.7 miles according to google earth again.  That even is counting the little trip up the channel to the river from my Fays Point slip.  A total difference of only 13 miles.  The whole way is calm, you have to watch out for logs and other floaters in the water but you get to see a part of Chicago which not many see. 

Here is the data,...  My boat is a 42 foot express cruiser with twin cummins diesel engines.  At wide open throttle (wot) she get's about 1.5 miles per gallon.  At idle speeds it's much better at about 6 miles per gallon.  Might be better, but each engine burns .5 gph at idle so it's a 1 gph burn and idle is 6 mph.  I might be off by a little but I figure 6 is a fair number to use. 

So, the 13 mile lake trip on plane at wot burns 9 gallons + 14 miles at idle burns 2.3 gallons at a total cost of ($4.00/gallon diesel) $45.2 going one way...  Not bad...  If I were to go idle even out on the lake all the way to Chicago, the fuel burn would only be 4.6 gallons or $18.40 going one way!  Even better but I really love hearing the turbo's spool up and run!  It sounds like a jet engine or something like that to me. 

On the other hand, if the lake is all churned up and there is an event in Chicago that I really want to attend, I can still get there going the other way which was 40.7 miles.  The time that I always seem to make up by not doing the Obrien lock and dam, I lose because I have to go through the Chicago Lock and also have to wait at the Canal Street Bridge which my boat is too tall to get under.  That usually ads at least 30 minutes.  But still, it's only 13 miles longer.  So, 40.7 / 6 = 6.78 gallons at $4.00 per gallon is $27.12 total for the one way trip.  Not a bad option if the lake is kicked up and you've got some sea sick people on board. 

So all in all, I can do a weekend in Chicago for less than $150 with the generator fuel, $40 for a spot on the seawall next to the Chicago Yacht club.  I can also save some money here and there by just anchoring in the playpen or on the river before going out the lock.  You just have to know where to go to get away with it.  And no, I'm not telling where that is...

WOW!  I met a guy from Ireland that is sailing his Lady Shamrock sailboat around the world! 

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