And so the last paddle…was a HOOT!!! What started as a ho hum pretty flat day out of the big public park in East Chicago turned into a bouncy ride closer to Chicago’s amazing and amazingly busy waterfront. Jeff Winterkorn and his girlfriend, Gina Polcaster, met me at the public launch. We paddled out past the huge breakwater area and pointed our bows toward the lighthouse by Navy Pier, angling in a little bit when we caught sight of Wendell, who was joining us on the water. Later on we dipped in a little closer to see if the SUP folks would be out, as we had heard that there might be a group from Chicago SUP meeting us. We didn’t see anyone, so we paddled off, heading a little outside.
Clouds slowly swallowed the skyline of Chicago, with many of the buildings losing their tops in them. Mist framed along the shoreline and r looked a tad ominous. The sky darkened, the wind shifted, and we found ourselves in the swirly wind of a squall. Jeff Winterkorn and I were further inside, but we could see Wendell’s bright orange hat further out. Every now and then we’d lose site of it with the waves and chop but then it would appear again. We knew he was having fun out there! Our ho hum paddle became the best playground ever in an instant. Outriggers were meant for this stuff, and it was fun size for sure, with little back washes to ride and chop to navigate, we had what I think was the most fun water to end a paddle on.
The chop actually got wilder on the inside of the harbor, with all the boat traffic. It became a real washing machine. Who needs an amusement park!? The inside harbor area is pretty small compared to say, a place like Barnegat Bay, but it had as much traffic as what I’ve experienced on that bay back home so the chop was truly insane-and a ton of fun. I love paddling outrigger, but it is way way more fun to enjoy that fun bouncy stuff with others-especially when there are a ton of motorized boats flying around all over the place. Safety in numbers!
The fun continued at the inlet that’s the entrance to the river the Lincoln Park Boathouse is on. It’s the littlest inlet ever, and has a blind spot so bad that you have to wait for a light to change to green before you enter. The light is on the bridge and you’ve got to pay attention to it if you don’t want to end up as a bow ornament. The guys flying out when one hangs outside waiting for the light to change are also a hazard. Jeff and I were off to the side, so boaters could pass us in the middle port to port much as you do (and are supposed to do on the water) when you are driving. One boater wanted to be where we were so he yelled at us to get out of the way. That didn’t work out too well for him. We refused to budge. Clearly he hadn’t taken a “boating safety” class or maybe he failed the part that talked about passing boats and paddle craft! Anyway, we got that straightened out and shortly after that the light changed in our favor and we went surfing in. What an absolute hoot. I’d totally do a race in those waters any day!!
It was funny to see my family, including my mother and Jessica and Stacie at the sea wall by the bridge along with Gina. What a blast-and what total mayhem that waterway is!
Once Wendell, Jeff, and I got inside we were joined by Cristine Kao, the director of the Lincoln Park Boathouse, along with a bunch of others on the water who paddled us in. It was a parade of paddlers-kayakers, another OC1 paddler, a couple in an OC2, Cristine and others on SUP. The whole thing had me in a it of a daze-I couldn’t believe that the two month battle upstream, skirting weather, surmounting the various challenges one encounters doing this type of thing, this scratch to the end, was over. As always, it’s a mix of emotions. Sadness that the adventure is over and gladness to be back with the family. And then there’s planning for next year….! Oh yea, and a TON of thank you notes to do!!
The adventure for our fresh and salty water will continue, that’s for sure. Next up on deck is getting Jessica, Lindsy, and Stacie to my house for SUPping and surfing! Can’t wait!
Oh-if you’ve made reading this blog this far, you might want to glance over yesterday’s blog. It was published a little more than a little rough, but I’ve tidied it up a bit and clarified a few things-basically, I finally edited it!! Well, sorta anyway!