Yesterday we started from Racine at 8:30 and decided to sail all the way back to Chicago. First the lake was like glass. No sun. Just muted shades of gray from above the horizon to the boat. Then the lake started undulating. Wide broad ups and downs. Then choppy. One patch with strong wind and white caps. Then calmer. Then waves began to build. By now we have been sailing - sometimes with engine on - for 12 hours. Chicago is visible from miles away. As we get within 6 miles, we see lightning. Jim says, "That's just heat lightning." I haven't heard that term in years. As the city gets closer and the city lights begin to sparkle, the lightning increases. Behind Chicago the sky explodes in bright voluminous bursts. We hear the huge thunder strikes. I do not want to be caught in lightning. Thoughts of Sarah recently having been hit by lightning flash through my brain. I throttle up. Can we beat the storm?
The winds pick up. We furl the jib and head in through the outer breakwater wall called the 'Gap' with the Chicago Light to our right. Red right return. I remember that we sailed through here at the start of the trip one month ago. My eye catches the instrument panel above the wheel for one split second. Gust of 50 miles per hour. I do not allow myself to think about the speed but try to keep a course. We manage to take down the main sail but the Dutchman system intended to neatly fold the sail up along the boom doesn't work in such high winds. The sail flies out almost over the side of the boat. Jim gets two sail ties wrapped around. I have enormous difficulty finding the next opening. I know I'm looking for a red light atop a tower--some 30 feet or more above the lake. However all the city lights flashing red and white make it almost impossible for me to find. In addition there's a blinking red light on some building behind the red light that I'm trying to keep my eye on. Usually when you come through these breakwater walls, the sea gets calmer. Not tonight. I turn over the helm to Jim who steers us to Speakeasy's mooring ball North Juliet 23 as if he's been going there on a regular basis. We're almost at the mooring ball. The skies open. The rain comes down so hard it hurts. Precariously poised on the bow, I reach as far as I can to grab the mast buoy that is attached to the mooring bridle. I pull up the lines and hold on for dear life. Finally I'm able to attach the two ends through the bow cleats. We are safe and sound and I am soaking wet.
Jim and I huddle below in the cabin until the lightning subsides. A Monroe Harbor tender boat comes to fetch us. We get to the Columbia dock. Mark meets us with Bob Bradley's car. He drives Jim home. He drives us home. I don't even go to my apartment. Right to 1001. Mark draws us a hot bath. He pours two glasses of wine. I stumble out of the bath, dry off and fall into bed. So happy and relieved to be back in Mark's arms.
I sleep. What a grandious finale to Speakeasy's Adventure. Yes, I'm capitalizing Adventure--from Harbor to Harbor.