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Dawn had just broken as I returned home to the Picton Castle after an early morning errand, and somehow the walk down Navy Pier seemed almost tranquil. As I walked past the man with the power washer hosing down the sidewalks, getting ready for another busy day here, I realized why things seemed more calm: I didn’t have to fight my way through a crowd, the music that always plays in the background here was silent, the stages with hourly live performances were empty, the big signs with the flashing lights were off, and even the Ferris wheel had come to a stop. As nice as it was to have a moment’s peace in the big city of Chicago, I have to admit I missed all the excitement that happens every day on Navy Pier here in Chicago.

The Picton Castle arrived in Chicago on the morning of Thursday August 3, participating in the customary Parade of Sail on the way into the port. We had a good Great Lakes thunderstorm early on Thursday morning before heading in, but the ship and her crew had no problems making it through. The morning continued overcast, cloudy, and threatening more rain, but the parade continued anyway. The ships participating in Tall Ships Chicago are more spread out here than we have been at other festivals. We share the South wall of Navy Pier with four-masted schooner Windy as well as the US Coast Guard cutter Mobile Bay. On the Southwest wall of Navy Pier are Nina, Unicorn and Pride of Baltimore II. The rest of the ships had to pass through a lock and head up into the Chicago River, turn around, and go starboard side to along the south bank of the river.

Navy Pier is quite an interesting place that feels like an old seaside amusement park from the 1920s. We were able to spot it from several miles out on Lake Michigan, largely due to the huge white Ferris wheel that kneels in the foreground of Chicago’s impressive skyline. Navy Pier draws thousands of people to Chicago’s waterfront every day with its carnival rides, shops, restaurants, conference and convention facilities, harbour cruise boats, outdoor theatre, and magnificent view of the city. Apparently Navy Pier is the biggest destination in the Great Lakes.

Chicago is the biggest city the Picton Castle will visit this summer, and there’s no shortage of things to see and do here. Lynn and Marilyn, our ship liaisons, are great ambassadors for their city and have all sorts of suggestions on places to go. Lynn calls herself “The Queen of Free,” offering a daily list of suggestions for free local activities. Chicagoans have been universally warm, friendly, gracious, and even funny! Even all the traffic directors have been very personable and friendly. The event organizers have also secured complimentary tickets to a number of city attractions and shows which the crew have taken advantage of during their days off, including the Sears tower, Shedd Aquarium, Art Institute of Chicago, Navy Pier Ferris wheel, Second City and Cirque Shanghai. Chicago is full of interesting buildings, many of which are very tall, and downtown has to work around the winding of the Chicago River. The crew have been busy exploring it all!

Also at Chicago trainees who joined us in Green Bay departed, and new trainees have joined us for the sail to Port Huron, where we arrive on August 17. So goodbye old trainees; hello new ones!

Alongside at Navy Pier
Chicago skyline
Sailing into Chicago
The big Ferris wheel at Navy Pier

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