One of the best ways to experience Lake Michigan is to actually
be on the water. Even if your family doesn't own a boat, it's
possible to rent charter boats for large groups (up to 18 people)
or small intimate family outings.
Last summer, my family spent a sunny morning on a 32-foot Cobalt
323 that included swimming and tubing on the lake. Capt. Al
Skalecke, owner of Captain Al's Charters, says it is possible to
do a number of trips with children, including fishing trips.
"Once the kids see dad (catch a fish), they want to get one,"
says Skalecke. Other trip ideas can include fireworks, sightseeing,
swimming and tubing. Capt. Al offers packages that include a
dockside bed and breakfast that can handle up to four people.
I prepared a bag for our day trip that included towels and
sunblock, plus sunglasses to protect our eyes from the glare of the
Our captain, Bob, drove us out around the lighthouse that is
visible from Lake Shore Drive near the DuSable Harbor at 111 N.
Lake Shore Drive. After a short run going north around Navy Pier,
our captain headed directly for the best tubing spot.
Capt. Bob has been on many different bodies of water around the
country but he says that Lake Michigan is his favorite because you
can be on the water right away. Other ports have watercrafts go
through a shipping lane that might take 20-30 minutes before
hitting open water, he says.
To find a local boat charter service start here. Take the time to ask questions about
different packages and services that are offered as well as which
harbor the charter uses, suggests Dana Fennewald, public relations
manager at the National Marine Manufacturers Association. Harbors
are located from Waukegan all the way down to Hammond, Ind. If your
family includes smaller children, make sure to explain that so the
captain can be aware before you arrive at the dock.
Finally, your captain will let you know if weather will be an
issue on the day of your trip.
"Some storms you can see coming 10 hours away to a specific
area, other times you may not know what weather is going to do even
an hour before it hits," says Fennewald. "If (bad) weather is a
possibility, the captain should periodically check in on the
weather and keep you updated."
A simple rain may not deter a fishing trip but electrical storms
and high winds that cause high waves will.
"I do not want people to have a bad experience," says Capt. Al.
"I want them to come back after having a (wonderful and) memorable
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