Strictly Sail – Chicago – 2012

There is so much to say about our first time to Strictly Sail that I don’t even know where to begin. It was almost overwhelming for first timers, and I’m so glad we decided to stay the whole weekend and attend everyday.

First let me explain what Strictly Sail is. It’s the nation’s premier boat show for sailors. There are a few held throughout the year across the country. Every January there is one in Chicago at Navy Pier – aptly named: Strictly Sail Chicago. What you will find is a grand collection of exhibits of sailing gear, boating tools, seminars (paid and free), food, music and of course sailboats!

We had quite a list made out for ourselves. Starting Friday and continuing through Sunday we would attend seminars (the free ones), visit vendor booths, meet up with some friends, attend more seminars and, of course, climb on the boats on display!

Here’s what our schedule looked like:

yeah… That bit Friday morning? Slight kink when the alternator fails in the Middle-of-Nowhere, Indiana. We made the most of it. We got ourselves to a dealership. Evan wheeled and dealed with the service department ensuring that we didn’t spend anymore than we absolutely had to for the new alternator and labor. When the Tahoe was finally in good working order again we drove straight the nearest IHOP for some refueling of our own!

We did finally hit Chi-town, but of course our morning of activities had been blown. We checked into the hotel and reworked our note card of a schedule to see which of the missed seminars would be available again other days/times. Once that revamp was complete we walked our happy butts 2 blocks down the street and across the park to Navy Pier. YES – we were walking distance from it! SCORE!

We went to every free seminar we could force our brains to handle. By far my favorite was Cruising the Big Blue Ball Called Earth which was more of a story telling session than it was a learning session. The speaker was Bob Bitchin. For you non sailors/cruisers out there, Bob is a sailor and had been for many years. He is the founder/owner of our favorite magazine Latitudes and Attitudes. Not only that, but he is also an ex-outlaw biker from L.A. and was the founder of Tattoo magazine which he later sold to his good buddy, the founder of Easy Rider magazine. The man is versatile and connected and interesting and funny, and I GOT TO MEET HIM!

We also got to climb on lots of boats. There were boats on display from Hunter, Island Packet, Catalina, Beneteau, Jeanneau and Pinnacle. We were on and in every single one of them. Well, except the Pinnacle. That thing was ridiculously ginormous –  as was the line of people waiting to get on and in it. Morbid curiosity had me in line to see it for about 5 minutes. I figured we had already wasted enough time on Friday with the alternator business. There were more practical things for me to see and do and things that required much less patience. Seriously, by Sunday we were exhausted and not willing to wait for that line to get shorter.

Of all the boats we climb around on we were most impressed with the Island Packet Estero. Early on, Island Packet was one of the mono-hulls that we liked. The price tags aren’t so visually pleasing, and we had since moved away from the idea of a mono-hull and have had catamarans almost exclusively on our radar. There are many reasons for this which I will discuss and open up for opinion in another post soon. HOWEVER, after experiencing this boat up close and personally, we may well be back on the mono-hull search. We knew we liked Island Packets, and we were further convinced of their beauty, design and cruising ability at the show. VERY well thought out cruising boats. We have been invited to take it out that particular Estero for a sail this spring or summer, something we are seriously considering. We will keep you posted on that if and when it happens.

By the end of the third day we were spent. Boating information was leaking out of our ears, and we were missing our boys. It was time to go home. Our last view of Chicago as seen from Navy Pier as the sun hung low in the sky was simply beautiful.

Meanwhile, we are back in Indiana and waiting for the end of this phenomenally mild (so far) winter, so we can go scurry up to Michigan, hitch up Wind Affair and tote her back to where her new home awaits her!


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