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Chicago Fireboat Tours cruise Windy City lakefront and river
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The Chicago Fireboat is seen cruising the Chicago River.
Pictured is the exterior of the Chicago Fireboat, also known as the Fred A. Busse.
For those who enjoy cruising Chicago's waterways, there are a variety of vessels to board for summer boating pleasures.One of the unique vessels traveling Lake Michigan and the Chicago River is the Chicago Fireboat.Chicago Fireboat Tours offers assorted tours including historical and architectural cruises, sunset cruises, fireworks cruises and other special event cruises."This is our third year in operation," said Ray Novak, co-owner with Erich Totsch of Chicago Fireboat Tours. Novak and Totsch are U.S. Navy veterans and licensed captains.Novak said the boat, which is named the Fred A. Busse, was retired from the Chicago Fire Department in 1981. It was renovated to be used as a passenger cruise boat after that and cruised Chicago waterways as well as the waterways in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. After being used for assorted cruises through the years in various locations, Novak and Totsch's Chicago Fireboat Tours is now making it possible for Chicago residents and tourists to see the Windy City in this unique vessel.Novak said the boat, with its bright red exterior, always attracts onlookers as it sails along the lake and river."Everyone thinks it's really cool," Novak said. He said the boat's history is interesting and its story is told to riders on all of its current cruises."She was built in 1936 and put in service in 1937," said Novak about the Fred A. Busse. It was considered the largest diesel-powered fireboat in the world in 1937. The Chicago Fire Department used the boat from 1937-1981. The Fred A. Busse was specially built to travel under Chicago's bridges."Our mission (with the tours) is to tell you a story of the city of Chicago on a historical boat," Novak said."We talk about architecture but don't want to say it's just an architecture tour of the city. It's also our (the boat's) history," Novak said.Novak, who grew up in Evergreen Park, said it makes him happy to see people enjoying the boat and the sights they're seeing."It brings a smile to my face when I see people taking pictures of it," he said.Novak said the boat holds 127 passengers but will have fewer people onboard currently, in keeping with social distancing guidelines.Visitors on the cruises have access to a cash bar on the premises. Snacks are also available. Various photographs and historical items about the Chicago Fireboat are also on display on the vessel.Cruises run through the fall.FYI: Chicago Fireboat Tours, which operate to November, leave from DuSable Harbor, 111 N. Lakeshore Drive, Chicago. Architecture and historical tours, sunset cruises, fireworks cruises and more are available. Call 312-919-3367 or visit fireboattours.com for prices and more details. There are discounts for seniors, veterans, military, first responders and children.
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