February 14, 2009

Strictly Sail

One warm spot for the otherwise ice-bound Midwestern sailor is Strictly Sail-Chicago, the sailing-centric boat show that unfurls annually, usually the same weekend as the Superbowl, at Navy Pier. A traveling show that's held in various watery locations around the country (Baltimore and Norfolk, Miami and St. Pete), Strictly Sail is a welcome respite at the end of our reliably brutal Midwest Januaries. Billed as the nation's largest all-indoor boat show, it fills Festival Hall with all things nauti:

It's an opportunity to do anything to satisfy the water-deprived sailor's soul, from trying on a 38 cm boat shoe, to boarding a 50 foot boat. The show also offers a plethora of seminars concerning everything from celestial navigation to boat organization, from cloud interpretation to diesel engine maintenance. I don't know what this guy was lecturing on, I just dodged in to take a pic:

It was either "Standing Rigging Basics: How to Tune Your Rig," or "Charts, Compass and GPS." So there you go.

This year we attended with our friends Dave and Margo:

You met them earlier. We sailed the Greek islands with Dave and Margo a couple of years ago. Here we were aboard Donousa, a 41 foot Beneteau that delivererd us through the swelling seas of the Agean:

We took advantage of the opportunity Strictly Sail offered to climb aboard another luvly beauty to recreate the toast:

We look decidedly less celebratory in this pic, don't we? It was January, for crissakes. It was damn cold outside. But it was a nice opportunity to start dreaming about the next time we'll be together in a balmy locale, steering a big pleasure craft to some exotic destination.

February 3, 2009

Monroe on Ice

How does a Great Lakes sailor amuse herself in the wintertime? And what can she blog about after the boat is put up for the season?

I've been asking myself those questions for a few weeks now, and I've come up with a surprising list of blogworthy answers. For example: What does Monroe Harbor look like in the wintertime? Well now, let's go take a look...

Here's the money shot from the office:

From Matt's office, actually. We have a collegial workplace understanding. He exec produces brilliantly, and once a day I get to look out his window. Yesterday I brought my camera and this is how Monroe Harbor looked from 34 stories. There's a lot of Millennium Park in this shot, but the corral of ice and snow beyond it is poor Monroe Harbor, seized by winter's grip. Let's go closer...

I'm standing about where I figure the O row in the south mooring field would be, based on triangulating myself between Chicago Hilton & Towers, Adler Planetarium, and the mouth of the harbor. We're looking east, obviously, and Little Smitty, were she floating on a warm summer day, would be just above dead center in this picture.


I took this field trip on Groundhog Day, BTW. Six more weeks of winter. Oh, who am I kidding? Nine.

I love that this solitary little dinghy was left behind. Especially after reading the signs posted every September at the harbormaster's office that threaten death and dismemberment to anyone who doesn't remove their dinghy from the pretty little seawall queue at the close of sailing season.

Here's a pile of the blocks that during the summer months are attached to the wateriest end of the mooring lines used in Monroe:

No idea why they were left here, except that they're not exactly portable, heavy enough as they are to keep several tons of pleasure vessel moored in one place through a season of winds and wake.

Swear to god I saw human footprints out on the ice beyond this pile. There's a Darwin Award waiting to be conferred.

This is looking southeast, toward the Museum Campus. That bump in the upper right hand corner is Adler. I'm using a really extreme wide angle lens here, which is why it looks like the planetarium has been relocated to Indiana:

No Diving. Oh-TAY!

This deceptively modest building is the heart and nerve center of the whole Monroe Harbor summer operation:

In a few months, when we're back on the water, I'll write more about the folks who make this hive buzz. But for now, know that the building contains the aforementioned harbormaster's office, the tender operations office, private baths for the boaters, and public restrooms for the walkers, bikers, skaters, tourists, Segway jockeys, picnickers, festival-goers, 'bangers, loiterers and street folk who regularly populate this particular stretch of Chicago's playground.

On any given sunny summer day, the now ice-bound corner of the harbor bustles with beamy blue tender vessels delivering boaters to, and retrieving them from, their moorings. It's a scene of connections met, deals brokered, flirtations begun, hearts broken. It's where we buy ice to chill our beer and tickets to secure passage for our guests. It's where we make a cursory check of the offshore weather which usually bears no resemblance to the weather on land. It's the hub of our little watery world where, if you set a spell and just watch, you'll witness all sorts of entertaining episodes.

Anyway. Thanks for coming back. I'll try to make it worth your while every week or so.

Stay warm.