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  WINDY CITY TIMES

ACTIVITIES Rollin' on the river, courtesy of the Chicago Electric Boat Company
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2020-07-08

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Running out of ideas regarding what to do this summer?

Well, it turns out there's nothing like going down the river in a boat built for two ( with social distancing ). I recently cruised down the Chicago River with a friend, thanks to the Chicago Electric Boat Company ( 300 N. State St.; ChicagoElectricBoats.com ).

For those of who are a bit skittish about being out in public because of the pandemic, the Chicago Electric Boat Company has implemented new guidelines to uphold the highest standards of safety for guests and employees. Employees and patrons are required to wear masks at all times, and the company also coordinates social-distance-friendly check-ins and orientations. In addition, there are bottles of hand sanitizer in the boat. ( Also, all patrons must view the safety video online before taking part. )

I personally had never travelled down the river this way, so I definitely looked forward to this. The boats are easy to operate, although it might take a minute to get into the flow of things.

My friend and I were in a Chicago Retro Boat, which is basically a smaller motorboat. Originally built in the 1950s and 1960s, these boats have been fully reconditioned and fitted with eco-friendly electric motors. However, there are other options, like the larger duffy, pontoon and donut boats. And for those who really want to get involved, there are cycle boats, in which patrons pedal to propel the boats.

I cannot emphasize enough how fun this ride was. Being in the middle of the river was very calming as we went down Wacker Drive and slowly drove by Loop skyscrapers and theMart ( or Merchandise Mart ). There was also a certain general camaraderie as everyone from to tour-boat operators to bystanders waved at us ( and, of course, we waved back ). Patrons can bring food or drinks ( of all types ), but I was cool just admiring how beautiful the city is—from a fluvial point of view.

Rates start at $125/hour for the boats ( although when split among several passengers, it certainly isn't much ), and you'll find what you want—whether it's fun or serenity. Currently, the boats are available until Nov. 19.


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