Strictly Sail 101
By Bob Hallman


Our first ever "Strictly Sail" boat show at Navy Pier in Chicago began with the sound of an alarm clock at 5:00 A.M. on Thursday morning January 31, 2002. We wanted to do something different last winter. Taking the train from Minneapolis to Chicago for a long weekend that would include Strictly Sail, Chicago Blues, and our first ever Chicago Hot Dog seemed like the thing to do. I flicked on the radio to check the weather and found Chicago had received 9" of new snow overnight. Just to keep things interesting now they had freezing rain. The radio mentioned snow throughout Wisconsin and unknown airport delays at Chicago's O'Hare Airfield. We had been pondering this train thing since early on, but all of a sudden it seemed like the best idea I had ever had.
The train left the Minneapolis St. Paul station on time at 8:00 A.M. for the eight hour ride. Train travel and sailing have a lot in common. First, with either, you can't be in a real hurry to get where you're going. You just have to take it as it comes and enjoy the ride. Second, you're never on an even keel. With both, it takes a little knack to move about, but once you get the hang of it it's a piece of cake. All in all, I'd say we really did enjoy the ride. Watching the scenery pass by without having to navigate or steer was most enjoyable. Both Carol, my wife, and I witnessed an abundance of wildlife out the picture windows. Carol counted 12 Bald Eagles along the open areas of the Mississippi River. We saw deer in many of the small stands of trees along the route and I saw a turkey running up a wooded hill after being scared off by the passing train.
Arriving in Chicago about 4:30 P.M. we quickly checked in to the downtown Radisson and grabbed a cab to Navy Pier. Navy Pier lies along Chicago's downtown area and extends into Lake Michigan for a quarter mile or so. We found out later that it's actually within easy walking distance from our downtown hotel. While Navy Pier was larger than I'd expected, the show itself was actually a bit smaller than I had pictured it. Even so walking into the arena for the first time was a real thrill. I must say that seeing all those shiny new sailboats lined up all over the place was quite exciting. A benefit of going to the show on Thursday evening was the smaller crowds. With fewer people around there were no waiting lines to go through the boats. I noticed that for the balance of the weekend the arena filled up quickly and lines formed at almost every boat. We decided that we would tour the boats that evening and visit the vendors the next two days.
With only three years of sailing under our belts I consider myself pretty much a rookie. So here we are, going from boat to boat and I start having trouble remembering the correct names for all the lines, hardware and the slang used in sailing. After touring several boats, what little knowledge I did have seemed to be quickly evaporating. Trying to talk smart with the numerous salesmen became a challenge. Comparing the features of each make and model and trying to imagine how I would look at the helm of each boat was most enjoyable.
We were back to the boat show on Friday and Saturday to tour the various vendor booths and to revisit some of our favorite sailboats. We actually did have a mission. We were looking for curtains for our new Precision 28. We ended up with a few ideas for curtains and made a couple of small purchases. I also signed up for a sailing magazine that I'd wanted. By the time the weekend ended we felt we'd had a wonderful experience and even learned a few things. This year's trip revolved around the boats. We agreed that on our next trip to Strictly Sail we would attend some of the various seminars offered. As a matter of fact, that conversation started our planning for this years Strictly Sail train ride to Chicago.

For more information on Strictly SailŪ Chicago call 800.817.SAIL or visit