Chicago really does live up to its name of the Windy City. The weather is so changeable. It can be a warm 26°C (although the Americans use Fahrenheit just to confuse us Europeans even more) one minute and a chilly 7°C the next. The branches of the trees are a good indicator. When they sway, more than likely the wind will be coming from the north, from over the lake, bringing the weather in with it, dropping the temperature and snuggling in fog, cloud, rain and worse. Quite literally it is possible to have all four seasons in one day, even in one hour, at this time of year.
For once the weather behaved itself today although Windy still managed to dominate proceedings. We headed for Navy Pier. Despite a sunny, warm morning at home, as we approached lakeside the fog descended, hugging us down with a white-grey blanket of cold air. Only the bottom 3/4 floors of the surrounding buildings could be seen.
The Navy Pier was built before the Great War to handle cattle shipments and the flow of immigrants that came to the Promised Land. Now it is a playground for tourists. Sightseeing cruises leave from here. There are bars and cafes and a theatre and a fairground. Not to be outdone by Monsieur Eiffel in Paris, a Mr Ferris built the first ever Ferris Wheel close by for Chicago’s 1893 World Fair.
When we arrived the fog hid the other side of the harbour. We were there for an hour long Architectural Tour of the lake side on the Windy, a traditionally-rigged, sailing tall ship. We walked down the line of vessels – brash but rather sorry-looking cruise ships with 3/4 decks, water taxis, fluorescent Seadog 50-seater speed boats….and there’s our elegant, classy, sophisticated three masted schooner. We are assured that we’ll sail so we retire for a coffee and watch the fog rise to release us from its clutches, warming up the day as it does so.
As we cast off the whole of Navy Pier is revealed although tongues of fog still lick across the bottom floors of the high-risers.
We gently move out into the harbour on the engine. The boat comes to a gentle station in the middle of the harbour. The crew, dressed as pirates of the day which slightly brings down the tone of the voyage, then proceeded to instruct us in the raising of the sails, which, I have to say was very hard work….and a bit futile….there was no wind, none, not even a huff. So from our silent, peaceful spot we watched the fog rise and fall creating some wonderful images of the shoreline.
From out here the lighthouse guarding the entry to the harbour can be clearly seen with the marker on the other side. With the lights now being automatic, the building lies empty, no longer the home of the Guardian of the Light.
Out in the distance lies the entry to the water supply for the whole of the city.
After a while sitting out here in the gently lapping peace, a return to the quayside is ordered by our captain. By this time the sun has almost fully burned off the remaining fog and the full shoreline and the fairground can be clearly seen as we head for home.
The afternoon is spent sitting in the sun, watching the vessels mess about with each other, cross-crossing the harbour.
The Chicago Fire Department Fire Boat was the highlight as it showed of its full array of powerful water cannon….effective in putting out fires or dealing with rioters and lesser vessels. Big show off.