Wednesday, April 23

What's Happening?

This past weekend I had the strange opportunity to be working on my own boat in the yard, the whole weekend. While walking around in between sanding and applying fairing compound, I notice a few things that I’d like to share with you. Plus I have a few tips and tricks, notices and other things happening around Crowley’s.

The weather was amazing and the crowds in the yard were at the highest level all season. Boaters helping boaters, music, and oh, power washers. The camaraderie was great to see. But wait; let’s get back to the power washers.

There’s always a conflict between those trying to tape off their water line to paint and the boat next to you power washing the sides and deck. It’s going to happen to every boater at some point. This weekend I had that very thing happen, except I was dealing with wet epoxy that needed to cure. Note: water and epoxy do not play well together.

What’s the solution? Use plastic sheeting! As an employee I had the advantage of going to the warehouse and grabbing some. I then realized this should be a product available to all customers in the yard. And now it is. If you need some, come to the store and we will sell you some.

My boat neighbors were very kind and helped me to tent off my boat. It only took about 10 minutes of actual work time and it was win-win for all. Thanks guys!

In the store, we are getting real busy. It’s great to see familiar faces again. As a boater, I love talking the talk and helping other boaters realizing projects. Seeing the proverbial light turn on is a great thing.

Also in the store we have shoes. Lot’s of shoes. Mention this article the next time you’re in the store between today and June 1 of this year and get 15% off your next pair of kicks. This includes closeout pricing that can save you up to 55% off.

Earlier I mentioned taping off the waterline for painting. I’m here to tell you that many of you are painting your VC17 all wrong. I encourage you to take another look at the directions on the can. You are supposed to paint in one direction and one direction only. What I witnessed this weekend was people painting and going up and down and up and down. Not the best application method.

So, I tried this just last night to see if the directions were worth following and they are. They most certainly are. I just finished taking all the old paint off the rudder, faired it, and applied 6 layers of barrier coat. Last night I finished sanding it down with 320 grit, recommended for a smooth finish, and started painting VC17. I tried the up and down see-saw method and what I found is as you start to work the paint, it starts to lift paint from your last stroke. I don’t know exactly why this happens, but it does. Of course I corrected this and finished the correct way.

I then tried the correct method and what a difference. No lifting paint and a more uniform coverage. Just FYI, I was using West Systems foam rollers and I absolutely saturate the roller with paint to ensure good coverage. This leads me to address those of you using thinner for the wrong reasons.

V172 thinner from Interlux is meant for three reasons; clean up, thinning to spray, and to help increase drying time for when it’s real hot out while applying VC17. If you’re trying to use this thinner for any other reason, stop. If you want the best performance from VC17, make sure your coats are on thick enough. If you’re looking for an extra smooth finish and that’s why you’re rolling so thin, try applying it to the correct thickness and then take a crumpled up piece of newspaper and very quickly burnish off any tiny bumps or imperfections. This process only takes a few minutes with good crew.

If you want to get the leading edges of your rudder and keel extra, extra smooth try using a Preval spraying unit. In this case you can use the special thinner to help with the spraying. Read the directions and only thin to recommended specs. This little unit is also handy for applying VC17 to those hard to reach areas like where the keel meets the hull, the prop strut, and other tight spots where the roller doesn’t work and brushing isn’t desired.

I’d like to give a quick shout out to Assistant Store Manager Mike Travis and Production Manager Andrew Spaulding for completing their USCG Captain’s License classes! Way to go guys. Well done.

That’s all for this week. If you see something around the yard you feel is worth mentioning please shoot me an email at I hope this finds you well.

Sharing is Caring

At Crowley’s, we think sharing is caring. This spring we will be sharing our expert knowledge base with fellow boaters. Staring next Saturday, April 26th,we will be kicking off our Spring Seminar Series at Crowley’s Yacht Yard. All seminars start at 9am in the Training Room at the yard and will last approximately 1 hour.

3434 E. 95th St., Chicago, IL 60617.

See below for the skinny.

Saturday April 26th
Kiwigrip Nonskid Deck Coating
Is your non-skid wearing down? Then it’s time to take the leap and learn about this awesome do-it-yourself product. If I can do it, so can you.

Presented by Michael Argyelan
Michael (that’s me!) is the Ship’s Store Manager, jack of all trades, and master of nothing. "I like boats."

Saturday May 3rd
Basic Rig Tuning
Proper Rig tuning is essential, not only for performance but for safety as well.  Join us as we show you how to tune your rig from scratch; setting the rake, centering and straightening the mast, how much tension you should apply to the rigging, and the proper way to secure everything so it won't fall down!

Presented by John Paige
Jon is our Rigging Department Manager.  Originally from the United Kingdom, he joined Crowley’s in 2009. We’re still trying to figure out what he’s saying.

Saturday May 10th
Seacocks 101
Seacocks are a critical yet often overlooked and neglected piece of equipment on your boat.  Andrew will lead a primer seminar exploring the various types of seacocks and their operation and maintenance.

Presented by Andrew Spaulding
Andrew is the Production Manger here at Crowley’s. He came to us by way of Connecticut. It’s OK to laugh at his salmon colored, east coast, preppy shorts in the spring. I do.

Saturday May 17th
Spring Engine Commissioning
Every year mechanics at Crowley’s shake the cobwebs off tons of engines. You’ll cover pre-start procedures, shafts, couplers, hoses, flame arrestors, and all kinds of other stuff we often ignore on our vessels.

Presented by Pam Barragan & Derrick Tharpe  
Pam is new to Crowley’s yet an extremely experienced mechanic. Coming from the Coast Guard Pam intends to help us get things ship shape. You better listen up! Derrick is a 5 Star Certified Mercury and Yamaha mechanic and has been a mechanic here at Crowley’s for 4 years. His engine interests started with race cars. He’s a gear head.

Check it! On April 26th, Betsy J of the Saucy Tomato will bring her food truck down to the yard to for a special treat. Locals will recognize the stuffed pizza, beef sandwiches, and tomato bread. Their signature sandwich is the slow roasted, pulled pot roast on fresh Turano rolls.

As always if you have any questions or comments, please email me at

Wednesday, April 9

Matt Markiewicz – Fiberglass Foreman - 20 questions

  1. How long have you worked at Crowley’s? Since 1990. 24 years and counting.
  2. How did you first start working here? I had just finished my time in the US Army and my brother asked me if I wanted to work in a boat yard. So I said yes. The rest is history.
  3. Which departments have you worked in? I’ve worked every department except Customer Service. I’m the Fiberglass Foreman most of the year and then in the fall I work with the Mechanics on the dock performing engine winterization and fuel and oil changes.
  4. What is your favorite time of year at Crowley’s? Summer! 
  5. How often do you go boating? Depends on the year. In a good year 3-4 times per week.
  6. What kind of boat? I own a pontoon boat plus I sail a fair amount too. I’ve completed 6 Mac races, lot’s of Wednesday night races, and numerous port to port races.
  7. Did you grow up boating? Yes. I grew up boating with a friend on his uncle’s power boat.
  8. What is your favorite boating activity? Kicking back with good friends and good drinks.
  9. How many Employees work in your department? 7
  10. How often do they go to training? Most training is in house. Every two years I go to Zodiac Inflatable Repair Training to maintain my certification.
  11. What job specific training do you have? Zodiac repairs, West Systems, and Awlgrip paint applications. If there’s an issue concerning fiberglass, Gelcoat, or paint, I’ve been trained one way or another.
  12. What certifications do you have?  Zodiac, West Systems, and Awlgrip. 
  13. What is your number one recommendation to boat owners? Keep it clean!
  14. In your area of expertise, what can a boat owner do to maintain their boat? Be sure you’re waxing it properly. If the gel coat starts to go bad, then you’re looking at a very costly fix. In the long run it’s more cost effective to maintain your vessel year round.
  15. What is the one complaint that you hear most often? Why is the season so short!
  16. What is your number one money saving tip for boat owners? I’ll say it again and again; maintain your boat. Wash, wax, clean, etc.
  17. What is the toughest part of your job? Grinding down the bottom of a boat.  
  18. When are you most likely to be found in the harbors? Wednesday nights.
  19. What is your favorite winter activity? Relaxing and watching football.
  20. What is the best way to get a hold of you to ask a question? Through Customer Service or just look for the guy in a paint suit around the fiberglass shop wearing a Bears or White Sox hat. 
What is it?

Be the first to get the correct answer and receive 10% off any item in the Ship's Store.

Email your answer to

Thursday, April 3

Anchoring - Get Hooked

Setting a proper hook can be the difference between a nice lunch on the hook and calling your insurance company. It can also be the difference between keeping your crew safe at sea in a storm and ending up in a funeral home. It can truly be a life or death scenario. Now that I have your attention, let’s keep it light and get back to that nice lunch.

If you've ever been in the playpen (just around the North side of Navy Pier), you've likely seen many boats anchoring with terrible procedures, form, and witnessed a boat or two breaking free. I know I have. Maybe you've never anchored before and you’re just not comfortable with it. In this article I will provide you with a solid starting point. The rest simply takes practice. Let’s get started.

First you need to know what anchor you have. Check out the images of the more popular anchors below.

     Plow – Delta

    Plow – CQR

    Claw (Bruce)


Recognize yours? Good. Now let’s go through their working characteristics.

Plow Anchors – Plow style anchors offer good holding power in a wide variety of situations. This style of anchor is quite popular for day sailing boats, cruising sailboats, and powerboats alike. These are generally not recommended for soft bottoms.

There are two different plow type anchors, the Delta and the CQR. The CQR has a pivot on the shank and helps with changing winds or tides as the anchor rolls on the bottom. The Delta sets fast and digs deep but will break its hold easier than the CQR.  

Claw Anchors – Claw anchors are unique in their shape and allow the anchor to turn without breaking free.  These anchors set like a plow style anchor but the rounded shape allows setting easily regardless of how it initially hits the bottom. Claw anchors are commonly called Bruce Anchors.

Danforth Anchors – Danforths are lighter weight and have two pivoting flukes. The design allows for the flukes to dig in and bury the anchor and even part of the rode. One great aspect of the Danforth is holding power to weight ratio. They perform very well in hard sand or mud. Avoid rock or grassy bottoms with these units.

Now that you know a little about your anchor, or your future anchor, let’s talk about size. Yes, size does matter. For this article’s purpose let’s assume we are working with a 40’ boat weighing approximately 20,000 pounds. With a boat this size you want a Bruce (Claw style) that weighs 22lbs, a Danforth that weighs between 20 and 40lbs (depends on materials – high tensile or not), and a Plow that weighs 35lbs. All of these are approximate and recommended for ideal conditions.

If you’re just hanging out for a few hours and will be awake and aware of your position while at anchor, size is a little less important. If you plan on napping, are in rough waters, high wind conditions, or sleeping through the night you’ll want to use the sizes mentioned above as minimums. You can go a little smaller and use what is commonly referred to as “lunch hooks” if staying for a short time in calm conditions. On my 10,000lb sailing vessel at 33ft in length we typically carry a lunch hook. It’s a Danforth and only weighs about 10lbs. Needless to say we only anchor in protected areas for a short amount of time and someone is always on watch to make sure our position hasn’t shifted.

Of course the weight of your anchor may very well depend on the size of your anchor locker or anchor roller. If you plan on doing any extended cruising and anchoring get the biggest anchor you can of the appropriate style for the bottom types you’ll encounter that your vessel can hold. Since we are on size, let’s talk about diameter and length of anchor rode.

Rode: A rope by which a boat is anchored

There are 3 basic ways in which to connect your anchor; rope only, chain only, and a combination on the two. In the Chicago area, for general use, I highly recommend a combination of rope and chain. Choosing the diameter of rope will depend on a couple of factors.

If you have a windlass you will need to make sure the rope/line and chain will work with your unit. Using the example above the 40’, 20,000lb boat would need approximately 7/16 or 1/2” rope. I would choose the 1/2”. You will then have to choose the correct chain size for the rope size.

In terms of length first decide what the deepest water you anchor in will be. If you never, ever, leave the Chicago lakeshore and won’t anchor out past 5 miles or so, you can pretty much be certain the deepest water you’ll encounter is between 35-50’. Always check your chart. 

Now factor in an 8:1 ratio for safety. Sitting on the hook for a quick swim and a cocktail in very mild conditions? You can go with a 5:1 ratio. The ratio refers to what’s called scope. See the image below for a good example of scope.


To simplify, take the deepest water you will anchor in (50’) and multiply that by 8. For a quick lunch, you will want at least 200’ of rode. For an overnight, at least 400’! Now, don’t get me wrong, I've skated by many a time with a 4:1 ratio in the playpen while taking a dip for an hour or two in calm waters but I do not recommend doing that, especially if you’re a beginner.

Moving forward, we now need to look at Catenary. Catenary is a curve formed by a wire, rope, or chain hanging freely from two points and forming a U shape. See the image below for a good example of catenary.

Of course we aren’t going to get real technical here. What you really need to know is the amount of chain you have at the anchor end of your rode will drastically affect your catenary. Using the above image of scope, you will see there isn’t any chain lying on the sea floor. In the next image you will see the catenary curve as it exists in more moderate wind conditions of 20 knots using chain (source:

The example above is what we are looking for; safe scope, chain on the sea floor, all working together. Don Casey, the well published boating and safety expert, recommends 20’ of chain and personally keeps 30’ of chain on his anchors. I keep 15 (likely the minimum). Now let’s do a quick walk through of anchoring procedure.

I’m going to simplify the process into steps.

1.)    Find your spot. Where do you want your boat to sit while at anchor? If the wind shifts, will you swing into another boat? What if your anchor slips during the set? Will you have enough space behind and to the sides of you? What about the boats around you? Can you see what kind of scope they have out? Have they been swinging with the wind? These are all important questions to ask before deciding where to set the hook. Now that you have your spot let’s imagine you are going to let out 165’ of rode (15’ of chain and 150’ of rope).
2.)    You want to motor (yes motor) very slowly directly upwind to our spot. Use just enough power to keep steerage. You will have the windlass/crew ready to lower the anchor. Please make sure it’s attached to the boat on the boat end. Once you are almost at the spot put her in neutral, drift upwind, come to a complete stop, and immediately call to lower the anchor. Let the rode out as fast as your crew can handle and as fast as the sea will take her while staying in control and safe.
3.)    Let the vessel drift in reverse doing your best to keep the bow pointed towards your designated spot. You may need a bit of power (forward and or reverse) to keep her steady. I will typically keep her in reverse idle to keep water flowing past the rudder.
4.)    Using your forward or center line deck cleat, make the rode fast at 165’. Your rode should be marked every 10-25’ so you know how much is let out. You will want to do this before all the line is out!
5.)    Once you feel a “tug” on the line, the anchor is almost set. Once I feel that tug, I another look around me (always keep an eye out) and then throw the engine in reverse, if not already, and increase the RPMs to really dig the anchor into the bottom. You’ll know it’s set when the rode is good and tight and you stop making any way in reverse.
6.)    Put the engine in neutral. Keep the engine on for a good 5-10 minutes and watch your position in relation to fixed objects and other boats around you. Watch your swing radius, be sure you’re happy with your spot, and make sure you feel comfortable. If you didn't get it right, start over. It’s quite possible to think the anchor is set but only to be caught on a rock that comes loose in the mud below.
7.)    Shut the engine down, feel satisfied, and relax!

Does this make sense? I hope so. Remember if you’re brand new to the procedure try a dry run by going through the steps but never lowering the anchor. By doing this you will learn your vessels tendencies while operating in reverse for longer distances and how it responds to just drifting in the breeze. Each step will take some common sense and practice. There’s no other way to get it right except for doing it over and over.

Now let’s go through the process in reverse. After all we have to get home at some point.

1.)    Start the engine and let her warm up.
2.)    Organize the crew, put away the drinks and snacks, and get ready for business.
3.)    With a crew member forward and ready, engage the engine in forward idle or with just enough power to slowly bring the vessel towards the spot.
4.)    Your crew should be gathering the rode as you move towards the spot. Take up all slack and be sure to have clear communication between the aft and forward ends of the boat.
5.)    When you've pulled back up to your spot, you may have an anchor so well set that it’s nearly impossible to get up by hand or even with a windlass. If the anchor comes up smoothly, keep the vessel as steady as possible to allow time for the anchor to come all the way up and be in its home. 
      If the anchor is stuck I suggest tying off the rode to the same cleat you used to tie off while at anchor and then drive forward with the engine. This will likely pull the anchor out. You should be able to see (the rode go loose) and feel the anchor break free. Once free, get her all the way up and back on board before moving on.
6.)    Tidy up. Make absolutely certain that your crew is ready and that no lines are left overboard.
7.)    Head out to sea or back to the slip, mooring, or club.

Anchoring can be so enjoyable. Some of my favorite times on boats have not been sailing but hanging out on the deck, swimming, relaxing, and having drinks 5 miles out where there are no crowds or sounds except for Bob Marley on the radio and slapping waves of the sea.

Please remember that this article serves as an intro to anchoring. We haven’t covered the different materials available for rope or chain, making sure your cleat is appropriate for anchoring (backing plates?), etc. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to email me at Of course if you want to share your hints, tips, tricks, successes, or failures, please contact me and I will post them in a future article or blog.

I leave you with a few tips and words of wisdom.
  • Always brief your crew and guests of the procedure. Planning makes perfect.
  • Divide the number of feet of rode being let out to boat lengths. It’s a great way to judge distance.
  • Know the bottom you’re digging into. The holding power of any anchor will greatly be affected by the bottom type. Check your charts for more info.
  • Periodically check to make sure you’re holding. Never hurts to check.
  • From the wisdom of Don Casey, “No anchor ever dragged because it was too big.”
  • Notice I’ve never said drop the anchor. Always lower the anchor.
  • Never leave the rode in your windlass while at anchor. It's a surefire way to damage the unit. 

If I missed something, let me know. See you on the water soon friends. Until then stay warm and dream of a South breeze.