A couple of weeks ago, I went briefly to the Chicago Boat Show at McCormick Place and I liked it. But I wondered why it doesn't seem to be on people's radar in the South Loop. After all, it's in the South Loop--and the South Loop is a true defacto boating community in Chicago. Lots of harbors and lots of boatyards pepper our community. And lots of Lake Michigan lines our neighborhood shore.
In any case, the boat show people got wind of this and invited me as their guest to another Chicago boat show last weekend at Navy Pier. Not exactly in the South Loop but close enough. And you can see the South Loop from the pier. I went and had a great time perusing the boats and fantasizing about a potential new life of boating, a short walk from home at Roosevelt and State.
There was everything one could imagine at the show: from vendors featuring clothes and accessories made from recycled sails to representatives from exclusive yacht clubs encouraging me to join. (OK, I'd love to.)
And I did just about everything one could do at the show--from watching the kids racing small remote-controlled sailboats in a shallow pool to eating a huge pretzel with mustard and washing it down with bottled IPA.
During all this walking on the boats and hearing the sales pitches from the salespeople, I got my picture taken with my boyfriend Bruce by the official boat show organizers. All you had to do was put your information into one of their laptops and they'd give you a costume, put you on a Topaz Taz sailboat, take a few snapshots--and you could post them immediately to Facebook. What could be cooler? I knew they wanted the information to send ads for boats and boat shows and such, but so what? My friends "liked" and "commented" while I was still at the show.
On Monday, I got a call from a guy who said my name was drawn at random and that I won a small sailboat. I figured it was a scam and didn't call back. The only odd thing was that his name and number came up on caller ID--which never happens with real scammers. On Tuesday, I contacted the marketing and PR person for the show just to make sure--and she said it was for real. That the guy was head of the whole show and that I won the very Topaz Taz that we had had our picture taken on.
I immediately called him back, got a voicemail--but didn't hear anything for another day. I sadly figured they'd given the boat to the next name drawn at random. I decided to call again the day after that, got an answer this time, and was told that the boat really was mine. Had we connected on Monday, the boat would have been delivered on Monday. But since we didn't, the boat went to Miami for another show. But will be brought back to Chicago in February, at which time it will be delivered to a warehouse near downtown--and I can pick it up.
The Topaz is small. And easy enough for kids to sail, I'm told. It's light--and can be transported on the roof of a car. It was suggested that I contact a yacht club or a boat yard to store it. But I said that even though I live downtown--on a very busy corner--I have a single family home with a detached two-car garage and could store it myself, taking it over to launch from one of the harbors near my house whenever the mood strikes.
One catch: I have to pay income tax on the boat--worth about $5,000. And I will be getting a 1099. But it's my official entry into the real world of boating in the South Loop, which was my goal from the start.
Another catch: The boat only holds 150 kilograms of people. That's about 330 pounds. So I'm telling all my friends that if they want to sail this summer, they better start dieting now.