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WorldUnited StatesGreat LakesLake MichiganChicago
Chicago Skyline as captured by J. Crocker


Chicago is the third most populous city in the United States, trailing only New York City and Los Angeles. It has more slips in the city limits than any other city in the United States. Chicago is part of the Great Loop route in the US, where it serves as the key transition point from Great Lakes to the Midwest, south-bound river leg of the trip.


NOAA provides thorough coverage of the Chicago area through multiple means.
Lake Michigan - 14901
Southern Lake Michigan - 14905
Chicago - 14927
Main Chicago Harbors (large scale) - 14928 In 2015, this chart had not been updated to show 31st Street Marina.
Detailed approach charts by area of Chicago (1:10K scale) 14926 - A book of 30 charts. Pages A, B and C are instructional on charts. Chart 1 of this book is a guide to the coverage of other charts.


Chicago is located in the middle of the North American continent and experiences weather impacts from all directions. In general, the cruising season starts in April and ends in October. The start of the cruising season and the opening of marinas depends on how cold the winter has been. The favored periods for cruising Lake Michigan are July, August and September.

The lake gets significant surface ice over winter and is generally impassable from November through March. The average date of greatest ice coverage for Lake Michigan is March 17th (St. Patrick's Day) and ice coverage recedes fairly rapidly following that peak. The spring time periods of 2014 and 2015 have seen record levels of ice coverage and delayed openings of many marinas.

Lake Michigan is technically one bay of the Michigan-Huron body of water. One should recall Gordon Lightfoot's warning about the gales of November coming early. On October 31, 2014, the waves started the day at a manageable 2 foot height and grew to the limits of the measuring equipment, which is 25 feet, by midnight. Such abrupt changes in surface conditions are common to the Great Lakes and boaters accustomed to salt water should be aware of the rapid degree of change that can be encountered in these fresh water seas. The light water does return to lower levels more quickly than salt water as well.

Chicago is sometimes referred to as the "Windy City," but be advised that the label originates from the verbosity of the politicians, like the famed speech-making ability of U.S. President Barack Obama, rather than any weather or climatic factors. The city can experience significant breezes, up to hurricane strength, and boaters should be prepared for rapid changes.

Sources for Weather forecasts:

  • NOAA land forecast The U.S. Met bureau, titled NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency), provides the official forecasts and records most historical data for the U.S..
  • The Chicago regional headquarters of NOAA's NWS (National Weather Service) provides marine forecast for Lake Michigan. These forecasts include both an Open Waters forecast that cover the whole lake, as well as near shore forecasts that cover individual regions, in approximately 10 mile increments of the coast. The open waters forecast looks forward seven days. The shore line forecasts look forward 48 hours.
  • The NWS broadcasts for Chicago are on VHF WX1 (162.550 MHz). In case of sudden change, the NWS will announce on Channel 16 that it is preparing a broadcast and advise mariners to switch channels for the announcement. Jason has experienced hurricane force winds in the city and heard the warning 15 minutes later to warn mariners further offshore.


Most long distance cruisers encounter Chicago as part of the Great Loop, a route using the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway, the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River, the Ohio River, and other inland lakes and rivers. If you are a sailboat, Chicago is where the mast goes down and you become a powerboat.


Add here VHF channel for coastguard, harbor masters. etc.

Also see World Cruiser's Nets


{Green|Add any navigation notes such approaches, dangers etc here. If this section does not apply remove it.}}


Marinas & Yacht Clubs

Within the city limits of Chicago, all marinas on Lake Michigan are administered by WestRec on behalf of the Chicago Parks Department. The website includes rates and on-line booking. Reservations for the season are accepted starting May 15th by phone, typically, and May 16th by web request. These dates due change from year to year and are posted on the website. Peak days, especially weekends, fill up on May 15th and a waiting list is started.

From north to south in the city:

  • Montrose - The most secluded of Chicago marinas accommodates boats from 25-50 feet. Home to Chicago Corinthian Yacht Club.
  • Belmont - Near historic Wrigley Field and able to accommodate boats from 28-80+ feet. Home to the Belmont Yacht Club and the Belmont Station of the Chicago Yacht Club. CYC uses Belmont as home to its youth sailing program and one-design race fleet.
  • Diversey - While able to accommodate boats of 25-50 feet, a low-clearance, fixed bridge covers the harbor mouth and is generally unsuited to cruising yachts. This marina provides walking distance access to the "Gold Coast" area of Chicago, which includes some of its finest dining establishments.
  • DuSable - Once part of Monroe harbor, DuSable offers slips with direct access to shore, in the heart of downtown Chicago.
  • Monroe - All mooring balls with marina supplied tender service to shore. Both DuSable and Monroe marinas offer convenient access to the Chicago Yacht Club, Chicago's flagship yacht club and host of the famed Chicago Mackinac race, and the Columbia Yacht Club, a former Canadian train ferry converted to a floating club house.
  • Burnham - Located on the celebrated Museum Campus of Chicago, with one side adjoining Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears NFL franchise, and the other on Northerly Island, once Meigs Airport and now a music venue, Burnham slips are some of the most sought after in the city. The Burnham Park Yacht Club has a clubhouse on the Northerly Island, east, side of the marina.
  • 31st Street - The newest addition to Chicago's list of marinas offers slips for boats up to 200 feet of length. Slips can be obtained easily due to the low demand since its location provides few attractions and access to public transportation is limited. The marina does offer direct access to the lakefront bike trails and those cruisers whose primary means of transportation is bicycling can bike a mile or two to get to the Burnham area.
  • 59th Street - Another marina generally unsuited to cruising boats with a fixed bridge over its entrance. Could serve as a useful dinghy dock to visit the Museum of Science and Industry, one of the most famous museums in the USA.
  • Jackson Park - On the south side of Chicago, this marina offers mast unstepping services, which could be useful for Great Loopers.


Chicago, in specific, and western Lake Michigan, in general, offer few places to anchor. In a pinch, you can get inside the outer harbor wall and get relief from high waves when winds are coming from the east.

Yacht Repairs and Services

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Marine Stores

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Fuel, Water, & Electricity

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Things to do Ashore


Chicago is a major metropolitan area with attractions suited to most tastes. Known as the arguably top sports city in the USA, the city hosts two major league baseball teams, the Cubs and the Sox, the NFL founding football team, the Bears (and once, also, the Cardinals), the Original 6 hockey team, the Blackhawks, the one-time home of Michael Jordan, the Bulls, and numerous other sports teams from soccer to polo to rugby. The Theater district often hosts plays as a test market before they got to Broadway in New York City. The Magnificent Mile along Michigan Avenue holds some of the world's finest shopping. The city has numerous award-winning restaurants, from fine dining to treasured dives that win James Beard awards.

There are numerous websites and guidebooks that cover Chicago, that should be listed here in the future.


Grocery & Supply Stores




Motorbike & Car Rentals

Garbage Disposal



Transportation (local and/or international)


Contact details of "Cruiser's Friends" that can be contacted for local information or assistance.


List links to discussion threads on partnering forums. (see link for requirements)


Links to relevant websites.


Books, Guides, etc. Use the Reference template or not at your discretion. For example:

Rod Heikel, Greek Waters Pilot, Imray Laurie and Wilson, Cambridgeshire, ISBN 9780852889718, expands to
Rod Heikell, Greek Waters Pilot Imray, Laurie and Wilson, Cambridgeshire, ISBN 9780852889718
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  • Author, Title, Publisher, ISBN ISBN number

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