By John Hogan
Imagine standing on the deck of a boat in the middle of a choppy Lake Michigan, with wind-blown rain buffeting your face like rice at a wedding.
Not exactly the ideal way to spend your 48th birthday.
Yet Valerie van Heest prefers this sort of mid-September activity to strolling Chicago's Magnificent Mile with friends and a charge card.
The conversion came 20 years ago, when van Heest met a group of people who shared her long-dormant love of Great Lakes history.
"In 1988, my life changed," she said.
"All my friends were people from work, and my time was spent either shopping for clothes or working. I forgot how much I missed the water."
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