Wednesday, May 14

Fire Safety, By Phil Pollard

Fire Safety

At Approved Marine in Freeport, two employees were removing a fuel tank when it ignited and engulfed the boat in flames. The fire department was immediately called and responded in 15 minutes. By the time firefighters arrived, seven boats were completely engulfed. The two employees were critically injured and by the time the fire was extinguished fourteen boats were destroyed and a half dozen others sustained serious damage. Fire safety is a constant concern for boat yards.
Once ignited, fiberglass boats burn quickly, producing noxious smoke and extreme heat. Fires can spread quickly and are difficult to extinguish. Fires have led to the demise of many a boatyard. At Crowley’s we work hard to reduce the risk of fires. All of our employees are trained in practices designed to reduce the risk of fire. For example, we utilize fireproof cabinets to store paints and solvents in the fiberglass shop.

Fire Proof Solvent Cabinets
The trash cans in all of our shops are emptied at the end of the day and solvent soaked rags are discarded in specially designed cans. Power cords are unplugged when not in use and space heaters are only utilized when an employee is present. Annual audits by our insurers provide an independent eye to inspect for fire hazards and recommend best practices.

Flammable Gas Storage Cages
We have worked with the Chicago Fire Department to develop a rapid response plan. The local fire house is located just a few blocks away on 93rd street and can respond to a call in minutes. The firefighters from this house have inspected the facility and have conducted training exercises at the yard. The north yard is equipped with a dry hydrant that a pumper truck can use to draw water from the river and provide extra fire fighting capacity.
If a fire does start we have the equipment and training to respond to it quickly. We have over 100 fire extinguishers deployed on the property. They are inspected and serviced monthly.

You may have noticed the aluminum caps on the trash cans in the storage buildings. These specially designed covers funnel smoke from a smoldering fire back into the can, starving the fire for oxygen and preventing a rapid ignition.

Fire Suppression Trash Can Lids
The latest addition to our fire safety arsenal is our fire response cart. It is equipped with a large capacity foam fire extinguishing system, multiple specialized fire extinguishers, ladders, hoses and a Stat-X fire suppression canister. It is parked just next to the service office and can quickly respond to an emergency. The Stat-X is a grenade-like device that is designed for confined space fires and works by breaking the chemical bond required to sustain a fire.
Fire Cart

Fire safety is up to all of us. Please do what you can to make the yard a safer place for you and your boat.

·         Use only grounded extension cords in good condition.
·         Do not leave your boat plugged in when you are not on board.
·         Close and safely store all solvents, and paints.
·         Do not throw solvent soaked rags in the trash. Drape them over your cradle to dry before you dispose of them.
·         Avoid using a space heater.  If you must, do not leave it unattended. 

If a fire starts:

·         Protect Your Safety. Get a safe distance away and warn any other boat owners in the area.
·         Call 911 Immediately.
·         Report the Correct Address. The fire department must respond to the address that was called in. If you are on the south side of 95th Street, the address is 3421 East 95th Street. If you are on the north side of 95th Street, the address is 3434 East 95th Street.
·         Report the Fire to the Main Office .

Wednesday, May 7

Shove Off

By Michael Argyelan & Marko Lucht

The other day I received a phone call from a boater asking what phone number to call the bridge tender on. I was confused at this inquiry. I asked if he was on our docks. He was apparently already on the water circling around waiting for a bridge-lift. After this conversation, I knew it was necessary to write an article on how to leave the docks at Crowley’s. I’ve asked around the yard, talked with the dock master and crew, added in a few of my personal experiences and compiled a list for you below.

Before you leave home
  • It may seem obvious, but check the weather for the day! I recommend using Accuweather, NOAA, and SailFlow. All great resources.
  • Have a sail plan. Let someone who’s not doing the delivery with you know when you intend to leave and arrive at the dock. Give that person a call or text when you leave the dock and when you arrive at your summer home. 

When you arrive at the yard
  • Stop by the dock house and find someone on the dock crew. Check in and give them an estimated time of departure. This will give you a chance to find your boat on the dock as well as make sure you have settled your account. 
  • If you plan to leave a car(s) at the boatyard, feel free to park near the dock house to unload and then please park in designated areas while you are gone. Designated areas are along the seawall to the south of the dock ramp, in the rows across from the flagpole, by the Ship’s Store on the north side of the yard, as well as by the fence along the railroad track by the Store on the north side of the yard. I’ve included some pics in our blog in case you aren’t familiar with the areas mentioned. Click here.
  • Be patient. Take as much time as you need to prep for your departure. If you think you’re going to be later than your initial estimated time of departure, let a dock crew member know and we will adjust. Dock crew will periodically check in with you as well.
  • The dock crew will make every attempt to have groups of boats leave together every hour. This helps to minimize chaos at the docks and minimize the number of bridge lifts each day.

Prior to departure
  • While still at the docks, be sure to start your engine. Let it warm up, check oil pressure, and make sure water is coming out of the exhaust.
  • It’s also a good idea to make sure you have all of your safety items aboard. I’ve heard of many boaters being stopped by the USCG at the mouth of Calumet Harbor for a random safety check. Some have been turned back to their respective boat yards until they’re complied with the minimum safety requirements like flares, pfd’s, and the like.
Shoving off
  • When it’s time to leave and you have the engine running and it’s time to go, please be patient with other boaters and the dock crew. If a Crowley’s dock crew is helping you depart, let them manipulate the boat for you, get you in a good position to depart, and then, and only then, put the boat in gear.
  • Please do not hail the bridge tender on your radio if you do not have to. We are in daily and personal contact with the bridge tenders and they expect Crowley’s to organize departures as much as possible.
  • As soon as the 95th Street Bridge opens, get on through as quickly and safely as possible. The 92nd/Ewing Street Bridge will be expecting you and the group of boats with you.
  • Keep a handheld VHF radio in the cockpit if you don’t have a mic for your main VHF hard wired to the cockpit. Being able to respond to the bridge tenders, other boaters, and Crowley’s is important.
  • If you must call the bridge tender, please call them on channel 16.
  • Have fun!

If you would like to add to this list please email me at 

Shove Off - Where to Park Pics

Pic of the Week

Thursday, May 1

The Shocker

I’ve been taught the best time to appreciate warm weather is when it’s cold out. A sense of gratitude. It seems that many of us have been looking forward to warmer weather for a long, long time. When Chicago finally receives its balmy summer weather, let’s all keep in mind the potential for hypothermia and cold water drowning in the still frigid waters of Lake Michigan, surrounding lakes, and tributaries is still shockingly a factor.

While I imagine the shock that would come from being submerged in 40 degree water, I’m equally as shocked by how many boaters I see departing for their summer homes going up the river not wearing life jackets. Cold water immersion is no joke. It doesn’t matter how strong you are or how close to shore or safety you are. With water this cold, danger is moments away.

The Mayo Clinic defines hypothermia as, “A medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature. Normal body temperature is around 98.6 F (37 C). Hypothermia (hi-po-THUR-me-uh) occurs as your body temperature passes below 95 F (35 C).

When your body temperature drops, your heart, nervous system and other organs can't work correctly. Left untreated, hypothermia can eventually lead to complete failure of your heart and respiratory system and to death.

Hypothermia is most often caused by exposure to cold weather or immersion in a cold body of water. Primary treatments for hypothermia are methods to warm the body back to a normal temperature.” 

I don’t know about you, but the words that stand out to me are medical emergency, dangerously, complete failure, and death. If you’re a regular reader you’ll recognize that I like to use a bit of shock factor to catch your attention. This article isn’t about shock factor. It’s about safety.

Check out some facts from the website

  • In 2004, 410 people drowned in Canada (read = cold water almost year round), 130 were boating.
  • 60% drowned in water under 50 degrees Fahrenheit
  • 34% drowned in water between 50 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Only 12% were properly wearing a lifejacket
  • 2% were improperly wearing a lifejacket
  • 43% were less than 6.56 feet from shore/safety (metric conversion - 2m)
  • 66% were less than 49.21 feet from shore/safety (metric conversion - 15m)
  • 26% fell or were thrown overboard
  • 48% were in a boat that capsized or was swamped
  • 10% of victims were strong swimmers

Do I have your attention? I hope so. What really has my attention in this list is 34% of victims drowned in waters up to 68 degrees and were within just a few feet of a shore, dock, boat, etc. What’s not surprising or shocking is so many incidents could have been prevented if they were wearing one simple piece of safety equipment, a life jacket.

I hope to see more and more of you wearing life jackets this spring and early summer. Consider tethers and jacklines if sailing short handed. Give a friend or family member a sail plan. Being safe doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. In fact being safe means having fun for years to come. If you have questions on how to properly wear a life jacket or any other safety related question, come visit us in the Ship’s Store the next time you’re in the yard or shoot us a call or quick email. – 773.221.9990

Still not convinced? Here are the symptoms of hypothermia according to the Mayo Clinic:
  • Shivering
  • Clumsiness or lack of coordination
  • Slurred speech or mumbling
  • Stumbling
  • Confusion or difficulty thinking
  • Poor decision making, such as trying to remove warm clothes
  • Drowsiness or very low energy
  • Apathy or lack of concern about one's condition
  • Progressive loss of consciousness
  • Weak pulse
  • Slow, shallow breathing
That doesn’t sound like fun to me. Granted, these symptoms may remind some of how they feel after over consuming on a "fun" night out. Or so I've been told.

Many of these symptoms can occur way before actual hypothermia sets in. Now the question is what we do if an accident does happen.

From the Mayo Clinic:

“Seek immediate medical attention for anyone who appears to have hypothermia. Until medical help is available, follow these hypothermia treatment guidelines.

First-aid care

Be gentle. When you're helping a person with hypothermia, handle him or her gently. Limit movements to only those that are necessary. Don't massage or rub the person. Excessive, vigorous or jarring movements may trigger cardiac arrest.

Move the person out of the cold. Move the person to a warm, dry location if possible. If you're unable to move the person out of the cold, shield him or her from the cold and wind as much as possible.

Remove wet clothing. If the person is wearing wet clothing, remove it. Cut away clothing if necessary to avoid excessive movement.

Cover the person with blankets. Use layers of dry blankets or coats to warm the person. Cover the person's head, leaving only the face exposed.

Insulate the person's body from the cold ground. If you're outside, lay the person on his or her back on a blanket or other warm surface.

Monitor breathing. A person with severe hypothermia may appear unconscious, with no apparent signs of a pulse or breathing. If the person's breathing has stopped or appears dangerously low or shallow, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) immediately if you're trained.

Share body heat. To warm the person's body, remove your clothing and lie next to the person, making skin-to-skin contact. Then cover both of your bodies with blankets.

Provide warm beverages. If the affected person is alert and able to swallow, provide a warm, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverage to help warm the body.

Use warm, dry compresses. Use a first-aid warm compress (a plastic fluid-filled bag that warms up when squeezed), or a makeshift compress of warm water in a plastic bottle or a dryer-warmed towel. Apply a compress only to the neck, chest wall or groin. Don't apply a warm compress to the arms or legs. Heat applied to the arms and legs forces cold blood back toward the heart, lungs and brain, causing the core body temperature to drop. This can be fatal.

Don't apply direct heat. Don't use hot water, a heating pad or a heating lamp to warm the person. The extreme heat can damage the skin or even worse, cause irregular heartbeats so severe that they can cause the heart to stop.”

With common sense, patience, and a bit of safety conscious thinking, we can all have a great, fun, and happy sailing season. I know I’m thinking safety as I depart the docks at Crowley’s at 5pm this evening only to likely arrive at night in below 50 degree air temps. My crew and I will be wearing life jackets.