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Chicago Maritime Arts Center: Gateway to Chicago Boat, RV & Sail Show

An overview from set-up at the Chicago Boat, RV & Sail show in 2018; ``The Boat Show''' opens show season today at McCormick Place South.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

“We conduct boat-building classes for Chicago’s youth.’’

That’s Chicago Maritime Arts Center’s straightforward sentence of ‘‘What We Do.’’

‘‘We are hoping to get kids excited about the water,’’ CMAC executive director Toby Lindo said.

It’s time for all ages to get excited about the water. The Chicago Boat, RV & Sail Show opens Wednesday and runs through Sunday at McCormick Place South.

Lindo is a most interesting on-the-water person. He has a classic boat, is on water virtually year-round and sings sea shanties. But his dreams for others are straightforward.

‘‘I would like to get younger people out,’’ he said. ‘‘That is what I would like to do.’’

The piece of the show with CMAC is a must-stop. Across the aisle is Howard Rice’s ‘‘Southern Cross’’: ‘‘A little ship explores the world live-streaming to schools and friends.’’


A girl testing her boat-building skills at the Chicago Maritime Arts Center booth at the Chicago Boat, RV & Sail show in 2018; “The Boat Show”’ opens show season today at McCormick Place South.
Provided by CMAC

At the CMAC booth, all ages can build a small boat out of foil. Seaworthiness might be tested with golf balls. There’s information on upcoming boat-building classes.

‘‘If moms or dads want to enroll their kids, there are 30 or 40 spots for middle-school kids,’’ Lindo said.

Last year, those classes were held at several sites around Chicago, including a carpenter’s union site and Jackson Park.

‘‘There aren’t a lot of guys around who have a shop and would teach their kids these skills as a matter of course,’’ Lindo said, explaining part of the impetus behind CMAC.

The middle-school kids build a Bevin’s Skiff, a basic 12-foot rowboat.

‘‘When done building the boats, we launch them,’’ Lindo said. ‘‘Many of the kids have never been on a boat.’’

There’s more to come than just being on a boat.

‘‘If we grow and prosper, we would like to give them more steps,’’ Lindo said.

He’s thinking fishing, kayaking, canoeing and some of the programs planned at Jackson Park this year.

‘‘We are going to do three programs at Jackson Park this year, one more orientated toward boating skills and marine ecology,’’ Lindo said.

As for the rest of the show, manager Keith Ogulnick said highlights include the return of some iconic brands — Fountain Powerboats, Baja Marine, Donzi Marine — and the GreenLine 40, a hybrid making its Midwest debut.

The Queen of the Show is the Carver 52 Command Bridge.

Oh, and there’s the grand show tradition of thousands of shoeless people lined up to walk the boats.

The sail-side layout has been tweaked, including rooms for seminars built right on the show floor.

‘‘The Boat Show’’ long has been an economic barometer. In that regard, Ogulnick said: ‘‘The 35- to 45-foot boats are starting to sell again. For this market, that is pretty significant.’’

The bottom line — or water line — goes to Lindo: ‘‘Chicago wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the river and the lake.’’

Information about ‘‘The Boat Show’’ is at ChicagoBoatShow.com. Information about CMAC is at chicagomaritime.org.

A scene from set-up at the Chicago Boat, RV & Sail show in 2018; “The Boat Show”’ opens show season today at McCormick Place South.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

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