Mast Down

In San Diego, where I grew up, boat owners put their boats in the water and left them there. Occasionally, maybe every year or so, you'd have to haul the boat out to clean the hull and scrape off the barnacles. Here in Chicago, owning a boat, especially a sailboat, requires a special dedication since you can't winter the boat in the water. Each fall, usually in October, every boat owner must vacate the marina and put their boat in storage for the winter.

A number of dry docks in Chicago are located down the Chicago River. This adds another complication to the process of winterizing your boat–getting your boat from Lake Michigan to the dry dock means having to float your boat under the many bridges that cross the river as it winds through downtown.

So, if you're a sailboat owner you have two choices, mast up or mast down. If you keep the mast up, you must wait at each bridge for the city operators to raise the bridge and let you through. (Only one bridge is raised at a time.) This is only done on certain days of the year and involves a lot of waiting around, not to mention jockeying in a small space, trying to avoid bumping into the other boats waiting for the bridge to raise. What would normally be a half-hour trip straight down the river turns into an all-day affair.

The other alternative is to take the mast down and lay it across the length of the boat. This way, the boat fits under the bridges, in some cases, with the slightest amount of headroom. Then it's a straight shot down the river from the lock at Lake Michigan to the Pilsen neighborhood where the dry dock is, no waiting.

Saturday was our date with the crane at Belmont Harbor, where we lowered the mast before heading down the river. In April, we'll do it all over again, in the reverse.

Attaching the crane to the mast.

Taking Down the Mast 1

Preparing to lift the mast.

Taking Down the Mast 2

The remaining stays (the support wires running from the mast to the stern and sides of the boat) are removed and the bottom of the mast is lifted up and walked to the bow of the boat.

Taking Down the Mast 3

 Down, down, down.

Taking Down the Mast 4

Taking Down the Mast 5

Taking Down the Mast 6

 The mast rests on special braces built to support it on the deck. Secured and tightened down, we're ready to cruise down the Chicago River.

Mast Down

The view of Chicago from the river is truly one of the best ways to see the city. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I didn't take many photos this time around, opting instead to play tourist and enjoy the sites. (You can see photos from past trips down the Chicago River here, here and here.)

I did get a shot of the Trump Tower. Anne's sitting on the bow, watching for traffic which included everything from barges to kayaks.

Looking back toward the lake, that's the Michigan Avenue Bridge. In front of it you can see the water canon from Centennial Fountain. If we'd been about 15 seconds later, we would have been doused by the spray from the water jet that arcs across the entire river.

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