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Chicago From the Water

Experiencing Chicago from the water is a whole different experience than from land.  After crossing the lake with several hours with only sea and sky surrounding us, the hint of the skyline was a welcome and stunning view.  It seemed impossible to me that what appeared to be tumbled piles of blocks along the horizon could be the vibrant urban environment I love.

I especially enjoyed seeing buildings from water that I love on land—the Gehry Pavilion, the Aqua building, buildings with interesting shapes and reflection patterns.

The Marina right at the base of the huge glass structures provided endless entertainment whether we were on or off the boat. It was never quiet.  The gulls with their incessant cries.  City sounds. The distant swoosh of traffic down Lakeshore Drive. The wails of emergency vehicles, a band playing in the distance at Taste of Chicago. Commands, calls and conversations of nearby boaters.   In the distance the deep booming of the foghorn coming from the entrance to the harbor a constant reminder of our location.

It was fun to see all the different kinds of watercraft, the people and their toys. We were located right near police and fireboats. We saw four masters, a big yacht with helicopter on the stern, sailboats of all sizes and configurations, the very tall and I think ugly Carvers, the orange muscle boats for folks for whom flashy and fast are important. Even a little raft. The boater taking his little Yorkie on her first ride.



We walked into the city, enjoying time at Millennium Park, marveling at our reflection in the  the Bean and the faces of Chicago on the two water towers.  I found the cloud formations more interesting than the art in the museum we visited.   Surreal.  Expected to see an alien space ship descend from the swirls.

I’m not a huge fan of Navy Pier and its honky tonk atmosphere but these sculptures and the lights of the spining  Ferris wheel had me fascinated.



We were there over the Fourth of July. Some boats got into the spirit with red, white and blue decorations.  Tried my hand at photographing fireworks, showing the reflection on the water in front of us.  I think I need some professional help next time.


The best show, however, was the sunrise over Lake Michigan and reflections on nearby glass facades.  I loved the quiet time before the marina folks were up and only a few gulls squawked good mornings.  My mind slows, a Zen like mood forces me to be in the present moment. It is fleeting and a great time to be alive.

Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.


  1. posted by
    Jul 11, 2011 Reply

    Great Pictures you always make me home sick when I read your osts on Chicago.

  2. posted by
    Jul 12, 2011 Reply

    Thanks.  I love Chicago and I understand how you could get a little homesick once in a while.   

  3. posted by
    Kate Dernocoeur
    Jul 13, 2011 Reply

    Very lovely post, Susan. I think the variety is stunning. Makes me want to get on a boat!

  4. posted by
    Jul 13, 2011 Reply

    Thanks, Kate.  I appreciate your comment.  

  5. posted by
    Jul 18, 2011 Reply

    That one can pack so much stunning visual stimuli in a relatively brief period of time is a marvel of the modern world. The reflections are so varied in source and feel and the final reflection is magical.

  6. posted by
    Jul 18, 2011 Reply

    Ahoy mates!
    What a fabulous way to arrive in Chicago aboard Passages on calm seas, under blue skies, and a flawless docking by the captain and crew! My usual experience of Chicago is Michigan Ave focused shopping, museums, and dining. Experiencing my favorite city from our floating accommodations immersed us in the boating community and the beautiful green spaces along the shoreline and its ever present flow of folks walking, bicycling, exercising beloved doggies, and gaggles of Segway tours. The finale to the week was fireworks viewed from the comfort of Passages cockpit with the addition of Justin who joined us for the sail back to Douglas. A wonderful once-in-a-lifetime experience with with great friends!

  7. posted by
    Aug 4, 2011 Reply

    Makes me want to be on a boat next time I am in Chicago!

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