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By Brian L. on Oct 25, 2007

Herb Miller includes Brian in a "sailing" up the Chicago River

I've done more sailing this year than I have in the last couple of decades combined.

Anyway, it is time to "winterize" the sailboats as Chicago closes its moorings on Gayle's birthday (October 31). So I called Herb Miller, owner of the 46 footer Natalie was on, and asked if he needed any help. As it turns out he didn't, but included me anyway -- what a gracious gentleman.

It was a bit breezy while I waited for him. Let me define "Br-r-r-r": Temperature was in the mid-forties. Winds out of the north steady a 28 knots with gusts up to 35. Whitecaps even in the harbor. Once we got into the (Chicago) River, the buildings shielded the wind and it became quite a pleasant trip -- the sun actually came out later.

Some of you may have had the pleasure of a cruise or tour of the Chicago River. A few years ago Cheryl and I took Allyson on a "architecture appreciation" tour as she was preparing for I.I.T.. But this was an entirely different experience. First of all, most tours don't go through the locks from Lake Michigan into the River. It was quite interesting as we pulled up to the sides of the locks and held on (not secured) the lines (ropes) that hung from the side of the lock. The other sailboats would come up along side and tie up to our sailboat in a process know as "rafting the boats". The gates closed, and the water level dropped from Lake Michagn level down to the Chicago river level (the distance varies from day to day but typically from one to four feet.) Hence why those of us nearest the wall hold on to the ropes as we have to pay them out as the water level drops.

Obviously we do this under engine power -- no sails.

Once into the Chicago river, we again collect in groups as our masts require the bridges to open -- much to the dismay of the normal vehicle traffic in the Loop. Because of this traffic disruption, the bridge openings are on a schedule. And it is a single crew that opens them -- meaning that they must open a bridge, let us through, then close the bridge before they drive to the next bridge. That leaves us to tie up, raft to another sailoat or meander in circles while the bridge crew does its thing.

If that sounds boring, you haven't seen Chicago from the river. The architecture is stunning in both its quality and variety. And these sailors of large craft have a camaraderie that I found quite open and friendly. And quite approachable both literally (see "rafting" above) and personally -- despite their obvious wealth and social standing.

It took us about seven hours to get from Lake Michigan to Herb's winter storage -- just the other side of Chicago's China Town. What a wonderful morning.

In other news -- Friday and Saturday we wrap up the Addison Community Theatre production of "Exit Who" where I play a senile old Lt. Colonel. This guy is quite a character who's always ending up in the wrong house and who believes he has done everything from going down with the Titanic to breaking the Watergate scandal. Cheryl was able to make my performance last Saturday as Cara took over barn and teaching duties down at the stable. We had a really nice evening of it.

Tonight, since we don't have a rehearsal, I'm planning on checking out a new Jazz club that opened in a nearby suburb. Don't know too much about it other than the artists are local.

Let me close with a Chinese Proverb a colleague uses as his email tag-line: "Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.”


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