Sunday, February 4, 2007

Strictly Sail Chicago Adventures

I made the trip over to Chicago for the Strictly Sail Boat Show; yesterday. It was a fabulous 17 hour day!

On the South Shore Train, I was in a car with a bunch of bikers from Warsaw. They were headed to a swap meet at the McKormick Center. Some of them had already been drinking and they were having a great time showing off tattoos and trading in 5th grade locker room humor. It was fun to watch.

When I arrived at the Randolph Metra Station, web directions in hand, I stood out in the freezing cold and watched my bus go down a different street. The CTA website is fabulous, I've had good success with it before. However, between the two of us, with a eastbound bus heading north, I missed it. Walking over to the appropriate bus station, I was trying to imagine how often the bus would travel by. I was getting a little warmer by moving around. I almost decided to jump in a cab and ride over. Support your local hack.

As I kept walking, I got closer and closer to Navy Pier. Next thing I know, I'm going to hoof it in the beauty of the single digit Chicago weather. As I came down Illinois St., I almost managed to catch a bus, but he drove off with me waving in his sideview mirror.

I managed to arrive and promptly got in line at the ubiquitous Starbucks for a Cafe Americano. Warm, wonderful nectar of the gods. There were several seminars I wanted to attend. I arrived just in time to get upstairs and see Pam Walls talk about sailing across the Atlantic. Her original talk was to be Atlantic Circle: Florida to Ireland and back; which appealed to
me. That trip was 9 years ago so she gave a talk on last years trip to the Azores. Pam, and her husband Andy, have cruised extensively and she is a wonderful speaker. Pam is a West Marine rep and apparenly a special friend to all cruisers. Her pictures and stories of the beautiful Azores threatened to spill over into the next session.

The next seminar was Cruising the Suncoast, my old stomping grounds. Unfortunately, the speaker didn't show. So I headed down to the floor. In the very back northwest corner of Navy Pier's Festival Hall was a tank with four big fans where they were sailing RC race boats. What a cool thing. I did not sail one but it appeared, for the cost of standing in a line, that anyone could take a turn. There was a typical Zig Zag into the wind with a long downwind leg race courses plotted out; complete with bouys. It was fun to watch.

I made a bee-line for the Latitudes and Attitudes Magazine booth. Larger than life Bob Bitchin and his wife Jody were there. They are heros of mine for a whole host of reasons. I got to shake Bob's hand and say hi to Jody. One of the overriding missions of the day was to get my very own "Don't Dream Your Life, Live your Dream" t-shirt. The Atty the Dragon hat had to come with me too. The people at the booth were great as I expected.

I wandered around the hall looking at boats that I wouldn't have wanted even if I could have afforded them. All the beautiful Beneteus, Bavarias, Hunters and Tartans are day sailors and racers. Yes, they were beautiful, but not what I want. There was also a Telstar Trimaran, which was cool, and a beautiful dory from a new company in Traverse City; the Pretty Dory Company. The Michigan State University Sail Club was even there.

I remember once sailing a couple boats out at Lake Lansing. I was sailing with Iichi Mirazowa [maybe spelled right]. He was from Sony in Japan doing some studying at the MSU Packaging School where I worked. After he found out I sailed, he took me out to Lake Lansing and we whipped around the lake. At one point, we were using a swim buoy as an impromtu downwind mark. Despite the abandone beach, the lifeguard was jumping up and down and blowing his whistle as two boats screamed in toward his beach. We cut around the buoy and flew back out into deeper water.

Back to Chicago, I wandered the floor and then headed back up to Pam Wall's second seminar Outfitting for Blue Water Cruising. With tens of thousands of miles in blue water, Pam had sage advice and answered all kinds of questions. Once again we spilled over into the next session. I was scratching notes over the seminar schedule I printed, with a golf pencil.

From there I went to Ken Gebhart's, Celestaire.com, Basic Celestial Navigation seminar. I think I could do that. As long as there will be paper charts, I may go with sextant rather than GPS. On the cheap is on the cheap.

I wandered some more and ended up buying a Moari pendant carved in New Zeeland out of bone. It is based on ancestal images and beliefs. It is a sort of fishhook motif with just a touch of Maori swirls. It is supposed to bring you luck on a voyage. I am now in search of a voyage.

One of the best seminars was "Ten Great and Affordable Boats to Sail Around the World." John Kretschmer is a highly experienced delivery captain and author. He is working on a novel with two other sailing heroes, Tania Aebi and Bob Bitchin. John is a plethera of information on sailing; he has encyclopedic experience sailing diverse sailboats. And he is a great story teller. I plan to check out his book Flirting with Mermaids. John's talk focused on Blue Water Boats; none of the boats at the show were truely blue water. I agree with most of what he said; how could I argue? Most boats are fine for most people. Most people use the boat more for wine and cheese at the dock than anything else. Even comfortably and safely crossing the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas is outside the pervue of most of these boats.

It wasn't all boats. I managed to hear some jazz at Joe's Bebop Cafe, and I had a cheeseburger and a couple beers [but no fries] at The Billy Goat Tavern. The Billy Goat was is the inspiration for "The Olympia Restuarant" sketch on Saturday Night Live. Most people think Belushi came up with the sketch. According to the Chicago Trib article on the wall, Don Novello, who played Father Guido Sarducci, did. The name of the resturant may have been one that Belushi's father once owned but that was his contribution besides becoming Billy Goat Sianis for the sketch. I loved Belushi.

Another highlight was looking at the city from the end of Navy Pier at night. The lights were beautiful. Even if there was an abundance of home town pride going on.





On the way home on the South Shore, I helped a fellow traveller [literally this, definitely not this]. He had been travelling for two days to Ft. Wayne. I never did understand his starting point, but from somewhere to Ireland to England to Chicago to South Bend and on to Fort Wayne. He is in the military. His wife works in Ft. Wayne. Travelling all that way to spend a week with her; he had to be back on base next Wednesday. As I walked to my truck from the station platform, I walked by them as they embraced. To travel that far to catch a moment. . . I remember love like that; I wonder if it remembers me. I didn't get his name, but I wish him well.

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