Gentle readers, the intrepid crew of Changing Latitudes is back for a four day adventure to the Air and Water Show in Chicago. The Air and Water Show is the largest free show of its type in the world.
On May 15 at 8:00 AM I began dialing and redialing like a rabid Jimmy Buffett fan calling Ticket-Master to get front row concert tickets. However in this instance I was dialing to get a coveted transient slip assignment at DuSable Harbor in Chicago for the dates of the Air and Water Show. After approximately 45 minutes of persistence I won Willie Wonka’s golden ticket and got on the list for a transient slip. May 15 is the first day the marina accepts transient slip reservations each year.
We departed Waukegan Harbor on Friday at 1:00 PM for our 32 mile cruise to Chicago. The morning had been spent putting the dodger ( canvas windshield ) on my sailboat Blue Heaven which is in the sales show room at Larsen Marine. After 8 months and not one offer the broker suggested I put the dodger on to improve her appearance. The offers should start rolling in now.
We cruised at our economical speed of 8 knots and arrived in DuSable Harbor at 5:00 PM. We had a slip assignment on the east end of B Dock in slip B20. We tied up, plugged in and checked in with the marina. We noticed that not only had the marina imposed a three night minimum for the Air and Water Show weekend they raised the daily rate and added a new $20 per day charge for electricity. The three night slip fee in Chicago is $453. That makes anchoring out look very attractive, except there is no place to anchor out in Chicago.
On Friday night we had three guests onboard from New Zealand. They were in Chicago for a hardware trade show. The Haydon family ( Trevor, Sue and son in law Mike Fisher ) live in Christchurch and experienced severe property damage from the earthquake that took place there about five years ago. The Haydon’s have an indoor swimming pool in their house that splashed out and soaked the entire house. They lived in a caravan ( camping trailer ) in their yard for several months while their home was rebuilt. Fortunately their souvenir guitar, signed by all four of the Rolling Stones among their vast collection of rock and roll memorabilia, was unharmed. A visit to their home would put a Hard Rock Cafe to shame.
Saturday was a perfect day on the water to watch the Air and Water Show. The winds were moderate from the west so the waves were one foot or less. Friends of the Arnold’s, Anthony and Jean and our son JP and his wife Rachel joined us for the event. We departed the dock st 9:30 AM and cruised a few miles north of Navy Pier to a spot east of the North Avenue beach. There were already hundreds of boats at anchor. We dropped our anchor and backed down on it to make sure we were secure. As the day progressed hundreds more boats joined the fleet already anchored by dropping anchor close to other boats. For most of these skippers it appeared this was their first attempt at anchoring. We saw anchors on large motor boats that were so small they would barely hold a dingy. We watched boats drag past and occasionally into us as if they had no anchor at all. It is quite entertaining since it is daylight and we can see each misadventure develop and be ready to fend off. If this had occurred at night it would have been a disaster.
The Air and Water show runs from 10:00 AM until 3:00 PM with performances from many precision flying teams, parachute jumpers carrying flares, helicopters and Air Force jets. This included an appearance by an F18 fighter jet and the Blue Angels. It was a wonderful day on the water. The same show repeats on Sunday so we will go back out and watch it all again including the ever entertaining anchoring antics of our fellow boaters.
Photo of Blue Angels above the John Hancock tower in Chicago. Photo by Rachel Simons
Blue Angels over Lake Michigan – photo by Rachel Simons
We had a delightful visit onboard Changing Latitudes with my work associate Oscar Rubio on Saturday night. Oscar was in Chicago for the Orgill hardware show. He currently lives in Miami and is originally from Lima, Peru. Oscar was a wonderful host when my daughter Alison and I visited Machu Picchu several years ago. He also took us to a bull fight in Quito, Ecuador after our trip to the Galapagos Islands. Oscar started his career with Sherwin Williams and has been working at Rust-Oleum for 18 years. We enjoyed sundowners, took a long dingy ride around the harbor to view the Chicago skyline and grilled burgers and chicken on the boat. We are docked near Navy Pier and they have a fireworks display every Saturday at 10:15 pm. After the fireworks I walked Oscar to the traffic circle near the Columbia Yacht Club to hail a taxi. We were among a few dozen hopefuls with a similar intent. We were standing about 20 yards away from the crowd as a cab pulled up and dropped off the fare right in front of us. Oscar hopped into the cab and drove off much to the shock and dismay of those clustered on the corner.
We awoke Sunday morning to overcast skies which did not bode well for the Air and Water show. The show has been delayed for at least three hours. Priscilla and I have lived in the Chicago area for over 35 years and yesterday was the first time we had seen the Air and Water show. For many years we would only glimpse small parts of the show as we raced on our sailboat from Waukegan to Montrose. The larger planes would bank overhead to turn back to Chicago for a another run over the North Avenue Beach. JP and Rachel decided to do a city tour and then take the train home. Our friends from Lake Bluff, Dan and Iris Carlsten came down to join us. They should have been here yesterday. The morning was spent watching dozens of boats turning around next to us while they searched in vain for the entrance to the Chicago River. It is one of the most obscure entrances to a major waterway we have ever seen. This is corroborated by all the lost boaters we saw all day long. There is a huge patch of seaweed all around our boat where all the boats turn around. Today one of the boaters called over to us and said “you should cut your grass.”
The Air and Water show never got off the ground and was cancelled today. The fog did not rise high enough to provide the minimum ceiling for the air acrobatics. We were fortunate to have had a perfect viewing day on Saturday. We decided not to leave the dock today. The wind and waves were from the northeast which is a long fetch and generates lumpy conditions. We noticed that a fleet of boats was anchoring just outside our breakwater. They were somewhat protected but were still bouncing around. We had the same view as they did and we were perfectly flat and still plugged into our $20 per day electrical outlet.
We spent the afternoon walking along the river walk on the Chicago River from the harbor to State Street. The river is full of tour boats, pleasure craft and kayaks. The kayak rentals are $30 for a single and $50 for a double per hour. We walked past the Trump tower with the controversial giant Trump name letters prominently displayed. The controversy between Donald Trump and Mayor Emanuel has died down and the letters are still there so I guess “the Donald” won this round. There is no such thing as bad publicity.
We had dinner at the Columbia Yacht Club on Sunday night. We have eaten there many times before the Mac races. Tonight was a little different. The Columbia Yacht Club is housed in a giant ferry boat designed to haul railroad cars. The club bought her in Newfoundland and brought her back to Chicago though the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes. I pressed the intercom button on the front door to gain entry. The intercom used to go to the bar and the bar tender would buzz you in. This time the new office manager answered and asked what I wanted. I said I was from the Waukegan Yacht Club and wanted to use reciprocity to eat in the bar. Usually after being buzzed in you go to the bar and everything is fine. The manager says come directly to the office to get registered. Dale, Andy and Priscilla go to the bar and I go to the office for what I expect will be a cursory welcome and a glad to see you moment. WRONG! I hand the office manager my WYC membership card identifying me as the Vice Commodore and flag officer and he reaches for the yacht club reciprocity book. I know Waukegan YC has not paid to be in the reciprocity book for years. He looks and looks and checks the addendum and asks what state is Waukegan in? I tell him Waukegan is only 30 miles north on Lake Michigan. Hard to believe he has not head of us. I can see I am about to be unceremoniously shown the exit when I blurt out “you might not know who we are but we always welcome members of the Columbia Yacht Club into our club. He ponders my statement for a moment and finally says “OK, that’s good enough for me, welcome to the Columbia Yacht Club.” Dale, Andy and Priscilla, unaware of the intense drama taking place in the other room have already ordered drinks and are enjoying the ambiance and fellowship of other boaters in the bar. We order dinner and have a very enjoyable evening at the Columbia Yacht Club.
Monday is a 32 mile cruise back to Waukegan. The forecast is for very lumpy conditions overnight and flattening out in the morning. We shall see. Until next time, this is the crew of Changing Latitudes wishing you fair winds and following seas.
Photo of the Chicago Harbor lighthouse.
Time to cut the grass at DuSable Harbor