Thursday, October 17, 2019

Guest post: Fall Return


It is my pleasure to introduce to you John Caruba, a true Chicagoan, and his memoir essay “Fall Return” - the first guest post on Life On the Go. Enjoy!

Fall Return
by John Caruba  

It was an ominous looking Autumn day. The crisp cool October wind whirled through the trees: Nature’s original leaf blower was in full force.

White caps cast highlights on the waves that rhythmically rolled rapidly onto the Shore and crashed into the sea walls. Reluctant to face the elements, yet fueled by the passion of necessity, we headed down to the harbor for the fall trip to take the Panache back to dry dock.

We boarded the Islander 36 and began to make ready for our journey. The procedure, similar to a pre-flight check in aviation was quite methodical. First, the Shore power was cut, and the power cable was neatly wound and placed in its designated hold. Next, all of the lines were brought in and secured. This was followed by the engine start, radio check, life preserver check, placement for easy access and a final check on weather conditions on the lake.

The marine forecast promised a steady rain and choppy seas with waves up to six feet. We untied the docking lines and disembarked to verify firsthand the validity of that forecast. It was accurate!

As we headed out of the harbor, a light rain began to fall, and the small wind driven droplets stung my bare exposed skin like scorpions. We cleared the mouth of the harbor and ventured out past the breakwater. The waves increased substantially in height and intensity challenging our sea legs, our fortitude and our courage. Periodic swells washed over the hull and across the bow, violently jostling us about.

When we rounded the point at Navy Pier a strong gust of wind took command of my cap and blew it into the raging sea. I struggled to pull the hood of my jacket from underneath my coat over my head. Tying the cord below my chin while steering us through the chop was quite a struggle. Maintaining my balance while standing at the helm proved most challenging at times, particularly in the larger swells.

We had now past the 31st street harbor; the last remaining port of refuge between our original dock and our destination some 20 nautical miles away with about 10 miles to go. The only crew I had on board was my good-hearted neighbor who had responded to the post I had placed on our condominium bulletin board. She was seeking adventure. This was only her second time out on the Panache and her frightened expression screamed louder than the four words I knew were spinning around her head: “What was I thinking?”

As we continued our journey, Iliana started anxiously anticipating our arrival, keeping a close eye on google maps. As she charted our progress and kept me apprised, hope and optimism slowly displaced fear and uncertainty. At last we passed the breakwater at the entrance to the Calumet river. Just beyond the breakwater, the lake calmed, the winds subsided, and we watched in wonder as the first draw bridge was raised to allow us passage. After passing the second bridge we pulled into dock one final time that Fall.

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