While confidently traveling along the Chicago River, we get to the Amtrak bridge about 4:50 pm and radio the much-used line: “South Branch Amtrak Bridge, this is Power Boat Meridian requesting a lift.” Then we patiently waited. Now, we figured it would take a while due to the time coinciding with evening rush hour on Amtrak and Metra trains. So we waited some more. Amtrak trains went by. Metra trains went by. Ducks and Geese went by. Other less-tall boats went by. A sightseeing boat came down the river on the other side of the bridge. Surely, the bridge has to open now! But the tour boat only goes up to the bridge and turns around so there is no need to raise the bridge for it. At 6:15, a Metra train with our friend Steve on it went by – we waved. During this time, Phil radio-ed periodically but we never got an answer. Bernie started to be concerned that we weren’t asking nicely enough, so Phil changed the line to “South Branch Amtrak Bridge, this is Power Boat Meridian. We would really appreciate a lift, Thanks!” We still waited. We finally got out the Coast Guard Guide and called a Chicago Harbor Locks general number listed to try to find another way to raise the bridge.
Chicago Harbor Locks Guy: Hmm. We monitor radio calls and I haven’t heard a request come over for that bridge. Are your antennas up?
Bernie (confidently): YES
Chicago Harbor Locks Guy: Are you sure your radio is working?
Bernie (less confidently): Um, yes. We can hear transmissions.
Chicago Harbor Locks Guy: Have you done a radio check? You should do one every day on our lake.
Bernie (meekly): Actually, no.
Chicago Harbor Locks Guy: Well, let’s do one now. Answer my check.
Radio Check Conducted
Bernie (excitedly): Did you hear us? We heard you!
Chicago Harbor Locks Guy (patiently): No, I didn’t hear you respond. Your radio doesn’t seem to be sending. Here’s the number for both the Monroe Coast Guard and the Wilmette Coast Guard. You should be able to reach them – either should have the numbers you need - but call back if you have any problems.
Bernie (embarrassedly): Thanks so much!
So we called the Monroe Coast Guard and got the new cell number for the Amtrak bridge. We called them. They told us we’d have to wait for the next Amtrak train in about 5 minutes.
The train went through.
The bridge went up and we sailed through.
Now a number of you are probably saying, “But you got the bridge up on the way to the Chicago Yacht Yard – wasn’t your radio working then?” Probably not. The bridge went up only after we called Chicago Yacht Yard and explained our predicament – thinking they may have a new phone number for the bridge tender – and they put in a request for us. We thought this was actually a repeated request when, in reality, it was the first request to raise the bridge that had been heard by anyone.
Lesson learned: Do a radio check every day!
We now have two brand new VHF radios. A hand held and a fixed-mount.