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Stolen! How Chicago Ribber was taken for a ride.

If you missed the last post you might not know that we purchased a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) to use as a runabout on the river.  Since Cygnet is such a big yacht we find that there are times we'd like to go out on the water but just don't want to deal with the hassle of taking our home away from its home.  So we found a BRIS brand RIB on ebay and purchased a few add-ons and an outboard motor to putt around the river whenever we want.  We love it and it has been a great addition to the fleet (now up to 2)!

Happy times aboard Chicago Ribber.
Shortly after we had Chicago Ribber we started exploring a bit.  We took a trip to Whole Foods and REI for some shopping, we've gone for Saturday brunch and fireworks, and down to Chinatown to watch movies in the park.  One night we invited a couple friends to ride along with us to Island Party Hut.  It's a fun place along the Chicago Riverwalk that has drinks, food, picnic tables, lounge chairs, live music, bags, jenga, great people watching, and many ways to entertain yourself while sipping on a tropical cocktail.

Fireworks aboard Chicago Ribber.

So with four aboard we cruised from River City through downtown to Island Party Hut where you can pay a small fee to dock your boat and receive a discount on your drinks and food.  Once there we found the dock master who let us know where to tie up and would kept an eye on our boat while we played bags, ate dinner, and had a few drinks.  It was a beautiful night and we had lots of fun chatting, eating, drinking, and playing games.  After it got dark we were ready to head back to Cygnet for a calmer end to the evening so we walked over to the dock and looked for Chicago Ribber but she was nowhere to be seen.  There were other boats there, some of the Island Party Hut rental Tiki boats, the Island Party Hut RIB, but no Chicago Ribber.  We found the dock master to ask him if he knew where our new friend was and he was unaware of its departure.  A little bit of confusion followed but after a while we found out from one of the Tiki boat captains that it had been seen with a 12-15 year old kid down river an hour ago.  Apparently the kid walked up to the dock and untied the boat and took it.  People on the river's edge saw it happen but in the couple hours we were there the people had turned over and nobody knew it wasn't the kid's boat.

We were a bit upset, as you can probably imagine.  Kevin has the Chicago Police Marine Unit phone number in his phone (a very good number to have) so he called and let them know what was happening and asked if they could look for it.  Since it was a Saturday night there were fireworks at Navy Pier and all the police units were doing lockup around the fireworks barge on the lake.  We called 911 to report the theft and let them know what was happening, hoping the bike cops which are common on the Riverwalk might see it.  What happened next can only be described as a complete failure of our educational system, police force, the English language, taxi legislation, cellular reception, and society in general.

"911, what's your emergency?" spoke the clearly exhausted Saturday night operator.
"Hi, I'd like to report a theft." Kevin voiced through his cellphone.
"OK, what was stolen?" queried the operator.
"Do you know what a dinghy is?  It's a small boat with an outboard motor.  Mine was stolen from the tiki bar on the Riverwalk."  Kevin calmly stated.
911:  "A what?"
K:  "A dinghy, it's a small boat that holds about four people.  We docked it at the tiki bar for dinner and when we went to leave it was gone."
911:  OK, how do you know it was stolen?"
K:  "Well, we docked it at the tiki bar for dinner and when we went to leave it was gone.  The dock master at the tiki bar called one of his boats and the captain reported there was a young teenager aboard down the river earlier."
911:  "OK, so where is it now?"
K:  "I don't know, that was about an hour ago that the captain saw it.  There is a young kid on board and the boat's lights are off so I'm afraid he might be in danger with all the other boat traffic."
911:  "Are you on the boat now?"
K:  "No, it was stolen."
911:  "Then how do you know where it was an hour ago?"
K:  "Another boat captain remembered seeing it."
911:  "Can you ask him where it is now?"
K:  "I'm not in communication with him, the dockmaster was and is now off the phone.  That was an hour ago, it could be anywhere"
911:  "Can you see it now?"
K:  "Um... no."
911:  "So how do you know it was stolen?"
K:  "Uh, I'm... I mean, its... I just told you, it's gone and I'm not in it!"
911:  "So what you want me to do?"
K:  "I thought maybe you could somehow let the bicycle patrol know and they could look out for it, I called the marine unit and they are busy with the fireworks so they can't look right now.  Maybe other police in the downtown area might see it too."
911:  "OK, Sir, this is 9-1-1, we don't do that.  You have to call the district."
K:  "The district?  What district?"
911:  (annoyed) "The downtown district, we don't care about your boat."
K:  (also annoyed) "What!? I'm calling to report a theft and to let you know there is a kid out there who could be in danger."
911:  "One moment..."
D1:  (ringing) "First District Sargent Dolinski." (name changed)
K:  "Hi, my name is Kevin Wright, I was transferred to you by 911.  I have a small boat that was stolen from the tiki bar on the riverwalk and I'm wondering if someone can let the bicycle patrol know so they can look for it."
D1:  "What?!"
K:  "I have a small boat, a dinghy that was stolen from the tiki bar on the riverwalk, witnesses said it was a young kid who took it.  I'd like to see if there is a way to relay the info to the police on the riverwalk so they can look for it.  There is a young kid on board and no lights on the boat.  It's very busy on the river because of the fireworks and I'm afraid the kid might be in danger.  Plus I want to get my dinghy back or at least file a theft report."
D1:  "Why did you call us, you should have called 911."
K:  "I did call 911, they said this is a district matter?"
D1:  "What?  We don't dispatch from here, who did you talk to?
K:  "I don't know, the 911 operator."
D1:  (very annoyed) "You need to call 911 back and immediately ask for a supervisor, there's nothing we can do!" (a click was heard as the phone was hung up).

At this point in the evening we decided it would make the most sense for us to take a taxi back to Cygnet and with our friends go find the dinghy.  We weren't getting help from the police and we knew the boat must be somewhere so a 10 minute taxi ride could have us on the river in about 20 minutes with Cygnet on the hunt.  Kevin had been nursing his drinks knowing that he had to captain us back later in a tiny boat with a full river and the experience of losing a RIB had completely cleared his head.  We walked to street level and grabbed a taxi- Peace Taxi Assoc. number 3665 -and experienced the worst ride in the history of taxi rides. Here is a summary of how it went down.

Kevin had gotten back in touch with 911 and was talking to another operator explaining the situation and trying to get a supervisor so he was paying attention to that.  This was no easy task as the operator couldn't understand what a dinghy was.  Anyway, Colette was in charge of getting us home with our friends (also experienced Chicagoans).  Kevin jumped in the front seat which was pushed very far forward and everyone else in the back of the Ford Escape.  The driver started moving but was very concerned that Kevin was so far forward and not very comfortable, but 911 was the priority and for a couple blocks the driver kept trying to tell Kevin to put the seat back, something he wasn't worried about, he at least put his seatbelt on.  The driver wouldn't let it go, he really wanted Kevin to be more comfortable so he kept telling Kevin to move the seat.  Kevin was preoccupied with 911 so he tried hard to ignore the driver.  Rude maybe, but being friendly wasn't a concern at that moment, getting the 911 operator to understand what was happening was.  As the car crawled down Michigan avenue in the left lane the driver would stop and honk at every car in the middle lane, which was not moving, thinking the cars were all individually going to pull out in front of him at any random moment.  The back seat passengers saw this and told the driver we were in a bit of a hurry and asked him if he could just drive like a normal person and not stop at every car next to us.  It had taken a few minutes to go two blocks.  The driver began to argue with them and for some reason decided to stop at a green light.  The back seat passengers were concerned, the cars behind honked, but the driver seemed to believe that green lights mean stop, so he was not going to proceed forward.

The light cycled red, then green again and he moved toward the destination, but in this time the discussion between the back seat passengers and the driver had become a bit heated.  Kevin asked the passengers in the back to quiet down since he had finally gotten a 911 supervisor after the second operator hung up on him and he had to call 911 again and explain again what a dinghy was.   The supervisor was having a hard time hearing Kevin over the shouting in the cab.  The taxi driver turned west on Congress parkway and decided that red lights now mean go and continued straight through intersections despite the traffic signals ordering him not to.  The back seat passengers protested this with loud shouts of "RED LIGHT! STOP!" but the driver knew in his mind that the red lights were merely a suggestion of how he should pilot his vehicle and he disobeyed their direction.  Kevin again had to ask everyone to quiet down since the 911 supervisor was unable to hear half of what Kevin was trying to relay about the dinghy situation.  The driver explained that unless there is a sign saying not to you can go through red lights.  Whatever.  Colette and our friends continued to argue in whisper voices, which Kevin and the 911 supervisor appreciated.  Finally we reached the destination and all exited the taxi, limbs and sanity barely intact and decided the driver would not receive a tip for his courtesy.

Once we reached River City Kevin lost the cell signal withe the 911 supervisor but got a call back from the Chicago Police Marine Unit who said they found our dinghy!  They let us know that it was indeed still at the tiki bar, we had just forgotten where we parked it because we must be too drunk.  Kevin explained to the officer that the dinghy they saw was in fact owned by the tiki bar and not the dinghy that belonged to us.  Also, just like team USA in the movie Beerfest we weren't that drunk.  The Marine Unit officer also questioned why we had left the tiki bar and not waited for the police to come.  Kevin explained the 911 conversations to him and that we were going to look on our own.  The officer hung up.

Since the 10 minute taxi ride took 20 minutes were were reevaluating our plan to take Cygnet to find Chicago Ribber.  Kevin had the idea to phone a friend, the owner and captain of Summer of George, a tour and party boat based at River City, to see if he might have seen the little RIB.  While the conversation was happening the Chicago Police Marine Unit called back and Kevin spoke to them again about what happened.  Not long into the conversation Kevin could hear on the police radio that the RIB had been spotted.  Summer of George had made a few calls and another tour operator saw the dinghy abandoned along the wall at Washington Street Bridge.  Summer of George called us directly to let us know.  Our friends took their bikes and we grabbed a couple of the Divvy shared bikes and rode up there.  Sure enough there was Chicago Ribber sitting alone tied to a ladder behind the Chicago Lyric Opera House.  We did have to jump a gate and trespass on the Opera property to reach her but as we descended the ladder to the boat we found the kid was nowhere to be seen.  The thief had fiddled with the motor but couldn't start it so he had rowed the oars all that way!  He even took a life vest from the pouch and put it on.  Our cooler still had all the beer and the bluetooth speaker was sitting right where we left it.  The kid stole nothing from the boat and simply abandoned it.  We got the engine running and took the little inflatable back home to River City, waving goodbye to our friends as they biked home.

Abandoned but safe.

So what are we thinking about our night out?  Well, we had a great time in the beginning, we ended up getting our boat back, and have a great story to tell so overall it was a success.  We now have a chain and lock that we use every time we leave Chicago Ribber.  We realize that Public Enemy may be right and that 911 is a joke.  We did get a sympathetic supervisor who wanted to help and put us in the queue for a police visit but the officers never showed.  It was a summer Saturday night and there were probably a dozen or more shootings in Chicago so we aren't too shocked or upset that our case was forgotten.  Since we got everything back it was a happy ending.  The thing we learned is we have lots of good friends, from our evening companions to the Summer of George crew, other tour boat operators, and the Marine Unit who all looked out for us.  Thanks to everyone who helped and we'll see you on the water again soon.

Safe and sound back home.


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