Sailing Lake Michigan - Waukegan to Chicago

Leaving Waukegan the next day for Chicago should have been uneventful. The forecast had the chance of rain and possible thunderclouds but nothing serious. When we left the harbour it was cloudy but no large thunderclouds. Some parts of the sky were darker than others but nothing that would interfere with sailing. Besides we had sailed in rain before (it never did rain, this day or any other). We did get a chance to put up the jib and do a bit of motorsailing.

About 2 or 3 miles offshore from Highland Park I noticed 3 formations on the water off our port side. They kind of looked like dust devils only on the water. I pointed them out to the Captain (notice he is the Captain now!). I started to move to the forward deck when I asked if I should lower the jib. He paused and then said 'YES'. I could tell that he was concerned. While I was quickly pulling down the jib I looked over my left shoulder at the formation and discovered why. It had turned into a full blown waterspout! And I had to look up over my shoulder to see the top of it pouring out of the clouds! I tried getting the jib into the sail bag but the Captain called me back to the cockpit. By this time we had reversed course 180 degrees and were motoring as fast as we could (oh yeah, real fast at 5 to 6 knots about 7mph, I told him to get a cigarette boat but noooo he wanted to go sailing.....). You would think that with the whole of lake Michigan's south basin to wander about in, a waterspout wouldn't be too likely to hit a small target like a 30' sailboat. Guess again! Sailboats must be to waterspouts as trailers are to tornadoes because this one set an intersecting course for the only boat in the area!!! With our 180 course change the distance started to increase between us and then it just kinda petered out. Another course change had us running to land deciding that we didn't really have to get to Chicago today.

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Then I think to take this picture. For some reason I just didn't think about taking a picture when the funnel cloud was fully developed. In this picture the waterspout has dissipated but you can still make out the 'dust devil' and I can see the remnants of the funnel. It also gives a bit of an idea how close it was.

Turned out that Highland park offered no cover at all. The nearest harbour was Chicago or Waukegan. Well on to Chicago....

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Chicago! We were able to see the Sears Tower and the John Hancock building from about 35 miles away. This is well below the horizon so I was suitably impressed with these buildings before I was anywhere near the city. BTW (By The Way) that tender on the foredeck is a real hassle to work around. Know of anyone with a small Zodiac for sale?

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Our view as we approached the city harbour. The buildings with dual antennas are the John Hancock (foreground) and the Sears Tower.

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