Today’s Chicago Air & Water Show: Not Enough Air & Too Much Water

Look Up

I’ve been home now for three hours and I still feel like I’m rocking and rolling on Lake Michigan. Hold on a second. I think I need to put my sea sickness wristbands back on.

Okay, that’s better.

The Chicago Air and Water Show was this weekend and a group of us went out on the sailboat to take in the action from the lake, a great place to watch as the jets go screaming over head and you’re not crammed elbow to elbow like the other million (and I’m not exaggerating) viewers on the lakefront. The show began at 10 a.m. so we met early on board for delicious eggs whipped up by our captain as we nearly polished off a 96oz box of coffee from Metropolis. All the while we tried to ignore the storm clouds rolling in from the west. (Rain and possible thunderstorms were forecast but not until the afternoon and anything can happen when it comes to predicting rain this summer.)

By 10:30, we were out of the harbor and in position, just south of the action happening off North Avenue Beach. The lake was extremely choppy, between the wind from the approaching storm (gusts of up to 30 knots) and the chop from all the power boats, some the size of small houses, motoring around us. We anchored with little problem and proceeded to watch a series of boats try to anchor in an open space near us, most of them monkeying around a lot, some coming dangerously close to our anchor line, and all of them eventually giving up and moving on.

Armed with two cameras, I took only a handful of photos, and most of them crap, because I put the camera away after just a few minutes of shooting. I learned very quickly last summer that looking through the viewfinder of a camera while bouncing around on the water is a sure-fire way to induce sea sickness. Today’s seas were the roughest we’ve been in all season, including our sail in the BVIs.

The top photo is of a giant cargo plane that appeared early in the show. I kept the lousy cropping so a) you could see Karen and get some idea of how big and close this plane was, and b) you could see the dark clouds that were beginning to roll in.

We stuck it out for awhile, long enough for a round of bloody marys (Sunday brunch and all) and to see some great stunt plane work, including a helicopter that did some pretty amazing rolls, upside down flying, and free falls. Very cool. By two o’clock, it was pouring rain and we were all huddled in
the cabin, save Captain Rick who stayed up top with Anne, just in case
any other boats tried to park right on top of us. After 15 minutes of solid rain and a check of the radar (thanks iPhone!) we decided to pull anchor and head back to the harbor. Things cleared up a bit and we continued tooling around watching a few more performances, but then high-tailed it back to Montrose when another dark storm front appeared in the west and the marine weather forecast sounded grim. As we were motoring in as fast as we could, the wind picked up quite wickedly and the rain began again, and the radio announcers commentating the airshow warned that boats and people should take shelter; isolated tornadoes had been sighted. Yikes. Get me off this floating lightening rod.

Back in the harbor, after the rain cleared, the winds died down and a steady stream of boats were heading in to the marina after us. The show headliners still made their appearance to wrap up the show, beating another band of rain, this one packing thunder and lightening. We were able to see a good portion of the Thunderbirds performance from our slip in the harbor and were treated to an ear-popping after-burning, up close and personal view of one of the jets screaming directly over the Montrose Harbor on its way downtown to make a speedy entrance downtown. Wow! Absolutely amazing. Car alarms went off and the masts of boats around us were humming with the vibration.

The T-birds made a number of low-flying overhead appearances as they used Montrose as their turn-around point, and each time everyone around us in the marina stood and held their fingers in their ears. The Thunderbirds’ salute.

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