Archives for the 'Safety' Category

Say “Hello” To Big Brother

Navy Pier triples number of surveillance cameras

June 10, 2009
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter

Navy Pier has more than tripled its surveillance network — with cameras so sophisticated, they can pick out a face in a crowd six blocks away — thanks to a $4.2 million Homeland Security grant designed to prevent a lakefront terrorist attack.

The Navy Pier network marks the first installment in a four-year-old plan known as Operation Virtual Shield. It calls for linking 1,000 miles of fiber optic cable into a uniformed homeland security grid, with surveillance cameras capable of spotting suspicious activity from one end of Lake Shore Drive to the other.

Until now, Navy Pier’s nine million annual visitors and surrounding lakefront waters have been watched by 60 black-and-white cameras in fixed positions. They were linked to an even more primitive control center on the pier.

The new network includes 200 rotating surveillance cameras so sophisticated, they can pick up a face in a crowd six blocks away. To speed response times, they’re linked to the 911 center, the nearby Marine Unit and to the Chicago Police Department’s Near North District.

Forty of the cameras are located indoors, including the Winter Garden and Navy Pier garage. The 160 outdoor cameras monitor the main entrance, the east end, and exterior perimeter.

Vince Gavin, director of special projects for Navy Pier, said there’s even a special camera trained on the inlet between Navy Pier and the Jardine Water Filtration Plant, one of Chicago’s most vulnerable terrorism targets because Lake Michigan water is purified for drinking there.

“When a boat penetrates the east end of that inlet, that camera focuses on the boat, a horn will go off and an audible message will go out: “Leave this area immediately. You’re subject to a $5,000 fine by the U.S. Coast Guard,’ “ Gavin said.

“Then, we monitor the boat. If the boat continues, the Marine Unit’s got it. A Marine Unit boat is over here in two minutes.”

Installed in February, the new cameras have already been used to catch at least one pick-pocket and nab someone who was damaging a store that had closed for the night. They can also pinpoint boating accidents and drowning victims or monitor emergency response to Lake Michigan plane crashes.

Parents who take their young children to Illinois’ most popular tourist attraction can also breathe a little easier.

“If we had a lost child, [investigators would ask], ‘Where did you lose him? We can focus in on that area. What was he dressed like? Okay, we’ve got a boy fitting that description.’ You don’t have to run around and up and down. It provides so much of a quick response. … And the facial recognition — it’s as close as I’m looking at you,” Gavin said.

The next round of lakefront surveillance cameras will be installed around McCormick Place, Soldier Field and the Museum Campus, thanks to a $6.8 million Homeland Security grant awarded in 2007.

Seventeen cameras — 11 of them infra-red — will cover the area from Oak Street Beach all the way to 3900 South. That’s because on flat land, there’s a visibility of one mile at night and two miles during the day, Gavin said.

And what about Navy Pier and lakefront patrons who are not comfortable being watched?

“Walt Disney [World] has probably been doing this for years,” said Ray Orozco, executive director of the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

Chicago Sun-Times: Navy Pier triples number of surveillance cameras


According to this IBM press release, Navy Pier is “the top-visited tourist and leisure destination in the Midwest, welcoming more than eight million visitors annually”, having “an economic impact of more than one billion dollars annually”.

IBM Press Release: IBM Launches Intelligent Security System at Chicago’s Navy Pier

CBS “48 Hours”: ‘Operation Virtual Shield’ discusses the homeland security impact of Chicago’s camera surveillance system, also highlighting its striking inability to protect against terrorist attacks that remain undetectable or which take place outside of the limited camera surveillance areas.

11 June 2009 | Chicago, Chicago Harbors, Law, Politics and Government, Safety, Technology, USCG | No Comments

Local Sailor on American Ship Attacked by Pirates

Suburban man on American ship attacked by pirates
Pirates attack American ship
Batavia sailor e-mails mom in Wheaton: We’re OK,w-new-york-pirate-attack-041509.article

Batavia Man on Ship Attacked by Somali Pirates
Local sailor: We practiced evading pirates
“We are under attack by pirates, we are being hit by rockets. Also bullets”

“I’m not a pirate, I’m the saviour of the sea”
Who are the pirate bands menacing commercial and tourist shipping off Somalia? Our writer meets one of the leaders

15 April 2009 | Adventure, Boating Disasters, International, Law, Politics and Government, Safety | No Comments

Pirates Attack on Lake Michigan: Grand Haven, Beaver Island, Manitous Threatened by Marauders Causes Excitement

Pirates on Lake Michigan -

Pirates on Lake Michigan have attacked boats and towns during the 1800’s, wreaking havoc and mayhem in their search for booty in regions such as Beaver Island, the Manitous and Grand Haven.

Pirates on Lake Michigan - newspaper article -

WBBM Newsradio 780 reports:

CHICAGO (WBBM) – While the world watches the Somali pirate drama, there’s a story to be told of pirates right here on Lake Michigan.

Lake Michigan was home to a few pirates from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The headline: Wholesale robbery by pirates on Lake Michigan. The date: October 10, 1855, in the New York Times.

The Times reported on people in the area around Saugutuck, Michigan, “thrown into the most intense excitement by the operations of a gang of marauders, who are reported to be Mormons from Beaver Island.”

But it wasn’t other ships that were attacked, it was land-based stores.

Half a century later – and almost 101 years ago – “Roaring” Dan Seavey took control of a Great Lakes cargo ship and sailed it to Chicago.

He reportedly got control of the 40-foot schooner Nellie Johnson in Grand Haven, Michigan, by out-drinking its captain and crew – then stealing it.

The Sun-Times reports that Seavey “found no fortune in his pirating: He was unable to sell the load of cedar posts in Chicago and was captured back near his home in Frankfort, Michigan.”

10 April 2009 | Adventure, Boating Disasters, Great Lakes, History, Lake Michigan, Law, Politics and Government, Safety | 1 Comment


Illinois Earthquake - April 18, 2008

This rare early-morning post is brought to you courtesy of the 5.2 magnitude earthquake which woke us up today at 4:37 AM in Chicago.

Here is the live map update of the USGS intensity report, based on questionnaire responses:

Illinois Earthquake - April 18, 2008

The earthquake from a sailing perspective-

Boats already in the harbor should be safe – no tsunami has been reported. Boats on land stored in shock-proof cradles should also be OK.

North Sails Weather Forecast

Interestingly, the North Sails Event Weather Service listserver sent an empty email out to recipients within a few minutes after the earthquake. Note the tell-tale signature 1970 timestamp, an artifact which indicates the host computer time had reset or otherwise been lost, such as waking up from a power outage or other unplanned restart, very likely a direct result of today’s earthquake.

UPDATE 10:19 AM – Aftershock!

Aftershock tremors rumbled buildings again here in Chicago around 10:16 AM. Loose objects mysteriously rattled eerily for a few moments, as if haunted by ghostly poltergeists, and settled down with no evidence or damage remaining. Still, the aftershock also measured a considerable 4.6 magnitude.

18 April 2008 | Boating Disasters, Safety, Weather | No Comments

2008 Crowley’s Yacht Yard Annual Yacht-A-Palooza

Crowley’s Yacht Yard

This weekend marks another tradition as the Chicago sailing season approaches. Crowley’s Yacht-A-Palooza arrives this Saturday, March 29, 2008.

Crowley’s Yacht Yard - 2008 Yacht-A-Palooza

“This year we have decided to Lu’au for Yacht-a-palooza. The event, as usual, will feature big discounts on selected store items, the Nautical Donations Flea Market tent, guest speakers, workshops, featured vendors, food, a pig roast, entertainment and prizes…and admission is FREE!”


26 March 2008 | Boat Shows, Hospitality, Racing Technology, Safety, Sailing Promotion, Sailmakers and Sail Lofts, Seminars/Education, Social Events | No Comments

Another Corpse:
Body Of Missing Kayaker Washes Up On Beach

First-time Lake Michigan kayaker missing since October 28, 2007, dies; body washes up on beach…

ZION, Ill. — A body that washed onto Illinois Beach State Park near Zion on Wednesday is that of a missing north suburban kayaker. The body has been confirmed to be that of Walter Doroba, 44, of 4461 Country Trail in Gurnee, according to Lake County Coroner Dr. Richard Keller.
The body was found washed ashore at Illinois Beach State Park just south of the Zion Nuclear Plant just after 3 p.m. Wednesday by a park employee, according to a Lake County sheriff’s police release.
An autopsy conducted Thursday on the well-preserved body determined the cause of death to be drowning, Keller said. Cold weather and chilly waters may have contributed to the preservation, he said.
Doroba was pronounced dead at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Illinois Beach State Park.
Doroba was last seen on Lake Michigan about a mile from the Waukegan Harbor shore about 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28, according to Lake County sheriff’s police.
Shortly after he disappeared in late October, Doroba’s kayak, life vest and paddle were found by searchers, Lake County sheriff’s police Sgt. Chris Thompson said. Search and recovery efforts were terminated Nov. 1.
Doroba was a novice to kayaking. He had recently purchased the kayak, and Oct. 28 was his first trip on Lake Michigan, Thompson said.
The criminal investigation division of the sheriff’s police is investigating, Keller said.


In the grim aftermath of Walter Doroba’s death, the Chicago Area Sea Kayakers Association (CASKA) has published kayaking safey information here:

30 November 2007 | Boating Disasters, Lake Michigan, Safety | No Comments

Another Lake Michigan boating disaster:
J/35 Jason: Initial Thoughts

The loss of life is extremely tragic.

This disastrous incident reaches all of us in the Chicago area sailing community, and hits close to home for many of us.

I knew John Finn, and sailed the 1998 Chicago-Mackinac with him, before he owned J/35 Jason. I also sailed one beercan race on Jason, and enjoyed one of John’s rooftop parties which he very graciously hosted.

I did not know the other crewmembers of the ill-fated delivery, and regret that I will never have the opportunity. I am both deeply saddened, and, quite honestly, somewhat outraged, that three lives are now no longer with us.

Amidst the sadness and grief, there are questions surrounding this ill-fated delivery voyage. By all accounts, there were a number of opportunities where better decision-making would have resulted in a safer journey.

Death is too high a price to pay for an activity we engage in only for pleasure. Unfortunately, the hazards of nature and elements beyond one’s own control sometime make that an unforgiving reality of the risks we take.

However, we should not discount the importance of all efforts necessary to prevent danger.

I cannot help but imagine the horror each of the four Jason crewmembers and the Coast Guard rescue team experienced on that night, beginning with the first awareness of the actual dangers involved in the voyage, to the loss of a crewmember overboard, the loss of the boat underneath your feet, and the individual fight for survival in the darkness against water, cold, and the unyielding breakwall.

We can all be thankful for the call to the Coast Guard, and the Coast Guard’s prompt rescue response. Without the wherewithal to make those efforts, the entire crew would have been lost.

My heart goes out to all who are affected by these events.

26 October 2007 | Boating Disasters, Columbia Yacht Club, Lake Michigan, Safety | 3 Comments

Leukemia Cup Regatta -












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