Every July, Chicago holds a boat parade in Monroe Harbor and calls it Venetian Night. There's a theme and boats decorate accordingly, motoring through the harbor, on-board sound systems booming, folks dancing and waving to the crowd in character. The parade follows along the lakefront, where spectators are camped out, from the Shedd Aquarium down past Buckingham Fountain. The whole thing is followed by a fireworks display because Chicago can't do anything outdoors without pyrotechnics.
The harbor itself is filled with spectator boats and we were one of them this past Saturday. We left Montrose around four and motored down in about an hour. Heading downtown via the water is always a great trip, rounding Navy Pier and taking in the entire skyline of Chicago. It never fails to impress, no matter how many times I make the trip.
We got in to Monroe and picked up our buoy in plenty of time. (The harbor is shut down after six-thirty–no in or out until after the fun is over.) We had a pot luck dinner, the centerpiece of which was steaks, masterfully grilled by Captain Rick. All the while, we watched the sun set behind Chicago and the storm clouds roll east, dumping on us a brief shower. The weather was warm (not sweltering, thankfully) and the breeze was perfect. As was the view.
Monroe Harbor, on the water, is truly one of the most spectacular ways to take in the Chicago skyline. The perspective from the Shedd Aquarium point comes closest, but there's something about being on the water with the cityscape wrapping around you from ear to ear that makes you really feel apart of it.
The parade was a hoot, though we were all shocked by how few boats participated. Only 22 float boats in all of Chicago? Come on! The theme this year was "Hollywood on the Lake." Since all the floating floats played to the audience on shore, we boats in the middle saw only the backside and our crew had a good time trying to guess what movie each boat was trying to depict. Not surprisingly, there were two Michael Jackson Thriller boats. I think this one was Roger Rabbit.
The moon appeared as the sun set and we watched it sink behind the skyline. Then fireworks.
Some of us opted to sleep on board since the plan was to sail the boat back to Monroe the next morning. The temperature was perfect for sleeping on deck, which I did. No matter that the cushion wasn't the most comfortable or that the party boats in the harbor rocked 'til the wee hours and squawking geese on the nearby jetty held a shouting match at 4 am. If you have to be awakened every two hours, who cares when you have the changing view of the Chicago skyline to greet you every time you raise your head. I've seen the sun come up over Lake Michigan, but never like that before!
The next morning, after coffee and bagels, we left the harbor and had a very pleasant early morning sail. The wind was good, the morning light beautiful, and very few boats were out on the lake. It was just about perfect.
Here's a link to my Flickr photo set from the weekend.