Renting a boat for the Fourth of July can be a cooler way to celebrate America… (Handout )
Independence Day is undeniably linked with the water. The legendary call of Paul Revere went "One if by land, two if by sea." One of the most famous paintings from America's infancy is of George Washington on a boat crossing the Delaware. And in Chicago, there are the Fourth of July fireworks at Navy Pier.
Lake Michigan is one of the best spots to take in the Fourth festivities, and Chicagoans looking to ditch the family grill-out and head to the water have a range of options for boat rentals and charters.
An option for those looking to get out on the water without a captain is with the Chicago Electric Boat Company (312-644-6411), which offers boat rentals for the Chicago River at a base of $150 per hour, according to Derek Tomasek, an intern currently working there. For an extra $60 per hour, you can hire a captain to take you out on the lake, but Tomasek said those interested should call soon, as they normally book full before the Fourth. According to him, the best spot on the river to enjoy Independence Day is anywhere along the North Branch, which he said is calmer with less traffic and smaller waves.
Most other companies require boat renters to hire a certified captain or prove they are qualified to sail. Heather Clark from Chicago Sailing (773-871-7245) said they offer sailboat rentals for the Fourth at a weekend rate of $75 to $200 per hour, depending on the size of the boat. To rent from Chicago Sailing without hiring a captain, you must have a sailing resume to show your sailing experience and go through a check with the dock staff before launching.
Once you're on the lake, Clark recommends staying away from the area known as the playpen, right off of Oak Street Beach, where many people stay to watch the fireworks and it gets crowded. Anywhere from the South end of Navy Pier down to the Museum Campus would be the best place to catch the show, according to Clark.
Chicago Watercraft (773-791-7311) is a bare boat charter company that offers a pontoon, a deck boat and a yacht, and according to Vernon Patrick, the company president, there are still availabilities for the night of the Fourth and the surrounding days. The pontoon is $99 per hour, the deck boat $125 per hour and the yacht $235 per hour, and all require hiring a captain, who set their own prices. Patrick said he works for $65 per hour plus gratuity (and food). They also rent out inflatable seats and islands to tie to the boats and float around in, ranging in price from $10 to $50.
According to Patrick the absolute best spot to watch the fireworks is on the West side of the Lake Michigan locks.
"You're wrapped by city lights," Patrick said. "Looking East are the fireworks, North is the Pier and every other direction are the city lights. It's a glorious position."
For those with night plans, watching the fireworks on the river side of the locks offers another benefit: when they end, you're all the closer to the bars downtown.
Windy City Sailing (773-868-0096) is completely booked for this year's fireworks, but for future holidays they offer a $300-per-hour four-hour charter for six people. According to employee Edwina Erlemann, their charters book up sometimes a year in advance of big events like the Fourth and the Air and Water Show, but Navy Pier fireworks continue all summer. Erelemann also recommends people going on the lake bring a light jacket no matter the conditions, as the lake gets much cooler at night.