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Boats Banished for NATO Summit

By JoshMogerman in News on Mar 11, 2012 8:30PM

Tour Boat Coming Through [Michael Lehet]

Got a boat? Whether it is a yacht or a kayak, don’t plan to do much with it during the NATO summit.

New proposed rules published this week in the Federal Register outline four security zones on the Lake and River where all boat traffic will be stopped for the NATO Summit. The zones include 2,000-yard circles around Burnham Harbor, the Chicago Lock, the entire main branch of the Chicago River (from the Lock to the split at Wolf Point), and the South Branch of the river from past Ping Tom Park (near the Loomis Avenue Bridge and Fisk Generating Station). So, don't plan any float trips or booze cruises for May 16-24. Boat owners chafing about the restrictions have until April 5 to submit comments on this ruling (details on how to do that can be found in the Federal Register).

Since most of us at the Chicagoist aren't rocking pleasure boats regularly, these restrictions don’t impact us much. But the 1997 movie “The Jackal” provides a cautionary tale about taking boat traffic serious in this town. In the film, Bruce Willis played an international terrorist who smuggles a massive gun into the country by hiding it in the mast of a sailboat he slips into Mackinac Regatta traffic to sneak into Chicago undetected. The film includes a big gun fight in the Burnham Park Yacht Club, right by McCormick Place where the NATO Summit will be held. (We know…it was a horrible movie and the Mac reference is all wrong since the race goes in the opposite direction, but we cannot resist bringing up Chicago cinematic references no matter how divorced from reality the flick may be.)

More reasonable concerns probably come from tour boat operators whose fleets will need to be temporarily mothballed, since they sail almost exclusively in impacted zones. And businesses in the South Loop are waiting for the other shoe to drop when word on traffic restrictions near McCormick Place come out this spring.