We enjoyed our evening under the Chicago skyline lights spending time with our son Brian and grandson Oliver. Had a nice dinner on S Michigan Ave and they came back to the boat to chat more and help us take down our stay sail mast so we’d fit under the city bridges. So good to see them!
Friday morning we had a 3-mile trip north to the lock separating Lake Michigan from the Chicago River. The lock was easy-peasy even for a novice like me. And then…15 minutes that I’ll remember forever! We traveled through the skyscrapers and hustle and bustle of the morning city and Riverwalk all by ourselves on. Not another moving boat in sight! Caught a few pics and then saw family members on the Clark Street bridge who came to wave and capture our experience…pretty awesome!
After the city excitement, there were lots of industrial sights and smells, RR bridges that had to lift for us and a few locks before arriving at a “free” city wall tie up with electric service in Joliet late in the day. The wall was rougher than I imagined, but we managed a decent landing and tie up before noticing a small boat in front of us struggling to do so.
We both jumped off the boat and onto the wall to see if we could help the 2 older men complete their tie up. That’s when I saw that one of the men had fallen overboard and was clinging to a rope coming off the front of their boat. He had no life jacket on and was not really attempting to climb out. His boat partner was not responding to the man in the water at all. Ned jumped on the boat and went to offer his hand and assist and I sought help from folks on adjacent boats as the guy in the water was not responsive to Ned other than saying he couldn’t use his right arm.
A younger couple on another boat tied to the wall came immediately with a large U-float jacket but the guy in the water would not put it on. The younger woman jumped in and helped get it under his left arm. She then pushed him up from below as her husband pulled on the guys shirt and belt to hoist and roll him into his boat. He seemed to be in shock and was not responsive to any questions. And still, his boat partner did not seem to grasp the gravity of the situation. We had called 911 and several police and ambulance came to take both of them to the local hospital. The person who had fallen in looked to be in very serious condition.
So it went from being a spectacular start to our day to nearly witnessing a man drown. If we had not gone to help them tie up their small boat, who knows when the boat partner would have called for help or been alarmed enough to raise our attention? As it is, we have no idea how long he was in the water. If the woman had not jumped into the water when she did to support him with the u-float and found the strength to push him up enough so that he could be lifted into the boat, who knows how much longer he would have been able to hold onto the bow line?
Later we learned that the 2 men did not really know one another. The boat owner has some physical, mental and communication issues caused by strokes and had picked up the man who fell into the water earlier that day near Chicago to help him follow a portion of the Loop Route. The guy who fell in the water fractured his right arm and did not return to the boat. The boat owner is continuing the trip on his own for now. Between the tugs/tows/barges, very low water conditions, locks and other pleasure boats on the Rivers, communicating is key in several situations daily. We hope he stays safe…