Thursday, July 31

Always Stand Clear of the Ladder, Boss

By Michael Argyelan

Whether at the dock or on the water, tricky things happen on boats. Safety, right next to fun, should always be a sailor’s top priority. I was reminded of this simple fact yesterday when I helped rescue an older gentleman who went in the drink.

Yep, right at the dock. Someone accidentally fell in. All I heard was a splash and then a single word, “Help!” I immediately ran over to assist another gentleman who was on the scene helping out. How did this all happen? Well, let me tell you.

An ‘older’ couple was out for a day sail and heading back into DuSable harbor for a port side tie up on G dock. I was on F dock with my wife rigging the boat (ie: stocking rum) for yet another brutally slow Wednesday Night Beer Can Race, when I noticed the couple having a hard time tying up.

The woman grabbed the bow line, which was on one of those dock line hook thingies fastened to the dock, and made it fast to the starboard side bow cleat. However, the gentleman didn’t get off the boat in time and the stern swung to port way off the dock almost making contact with another boat. I assumed they’d figure it out eventually. They seemed to be self sufficient with at least one line tied on and a working engine.

Just moments later the splash and a call for help rang out. Without a second passing I yelled for the dock code, ran down F dock and over to G. When I bent down over the dock a gentleman was holding onto the skipper’s hand keeping him steady. The skipper’s auto inflating PFD had gone off properly and was keeping him afloat. He’s very lucky that someone was there to help him. The 3 layers of clothing on his body may just have taken him under if he hadn’t been wearing a properly functioning PFD.

Now, I’m not sure what happened, I can only assume that he made a foolish attempt to jump to the dock and make the stern line. He was so concerned about the boat getting tied up even when floating in the water with his hand latched to his rescuer’s. “Will you grab the stern line and pull the boat in?” I kindly told him that not only would the boat crush him as he was between the boat and a fixed object but that our only concern for the moment was getting him out of the water quickly and safely.

We let him go and he swam, or awkwardly floated, to the swim ladder on the stern. It took him 3 full minutes to get on the boat. Once he was on the ladder, barely standing, he realized mobility was extremely limited due to the PFD that may have just saved his life. With much needed assistance the PFD was off and he slowly made it into the cockpit. Needless to say everyone was happy that he was safely on the boat, especially his wife.

There are some key lessons to be learned here:

One, wearing a PFD when sailing is always a good idea. I also noticed his wife was wearing a foam type PFD. Good on you both. Well done.

Two, never, ever, jump onto the dock. Fiberglass is cheaper to repair than bones and much less painful. It’s better to ask for a hand from a nearby boater. In this case, there was a guy two boats down who was ready to lend a hand.

Three, know how to get back on the boat, alone. Physically, his wife would not have been able to pull him out of the water. The boat was so far off the dock that she couldn’t get off the boat either. Have an exit strategy, or in this case, a boarding strategy.

Four, swim ladders aren’t just for swimming. Without a swim ladder, the gentleman in the water was going to have to suffer through me yanking on his arms and gear to hoist him out of the water. A dislocated shoulder or bruises and scrapes are all possibilities when bringing a victim out of the water.

He’s lucky someone was on board to lower the ladder. There wasn’t a leash or the like to lower the ladder from the water. A ladder is only useful if you can get to it. I learned this lesson the hard way in my most embarrassing moment on the water a few years ago.

I was waxing the smooth sections of the deck giving my old Catalina 36 a mid season shine. At the time I had ‘Westwind’ on a mooring in Monroe Harbor and wanted to have access to a dock so I pulled her up to the finger pier, aka pump out dock, due East of the Chicago Yacht Club docks. Dry wax dust covered the boat. I slipped a few times walking on deck in flip flops. Flip flops were mistake number one.

The rail at the lifeline gate was an aluminum track with adjustable cars and attachment points. This was covered in wax dust. As were my flip flops. You guessed it, I slipped getting back onto the boat.

My right shin took the first hit ripping the skin right off. My hip bones next leaving a mighty bruise and then my chest and arms. I made a desperate attempt to latch on to the rail with the tips of my fingers to no avail.

My bruised and battered body, and ego, was now in the water trapped between the boat and the pier. Somehow I pulled it together quickly enough to swim away and head towards the stern and the swim ladder; my quickest way out of the water. The only problem now was the swim ladder was out of reach. I made every attempt to reach it. Every effort failed.

Realizing not a soul noticed I landed in the wet stuff, I gave a quick call for help? Embarrassingly, a captain that I was about to interview for my charter company was the one who answered. He looked down at me and asked if I needed help. I swallowed my initial anger at his sarcasm and agreed to his assistance. He lowered the swim ladder and I proceeded to pull out the first aid kit.

This is the one and only time I fell in the water. You’ll now find my flip flops at the end of the dock. I don’t even bring them on board anymore.

I now have a leash or line or whatever you want to call it on my ladder. The nerd in me uses 3mm dyneema but any line will do. Even a sail tie will work and your local sail maker will appreciate the advertising. It needs to be low enough that you can reach it if you wind up in the drink.

Let’s recap. Flip flops bad. PFD’s good. Have a way to get back on the boat, alone. When you need help, yell and someone will hear you eventually. Don’t jump from the boat to the dock, always step onto the dock.

Want to chime in? Tips? Email me at

Sail on, friends.

Thursday, July 24

Mirror Finish

                       By Michael Argyelan   

Many of us boaters spend almost silly amounts of dollars on sunglasses. Why? Because we want our eyes to function properly both on the water and when we get older and the UV protection found in high quality lenses offers the protection we need. That and some of us are ‘shades junkies’ who can’t satisfy our eyewear egos with just one pair.

Before I started boating professionally I spent as little money as possible on sunglasses because I thought I’d eventually lose them and it wasn’t worth it. Then I went to get an updated prescription for my contacts. The optometrist delivered a sobering message, “Stop being so cheap on shades. You’re going to pay for it eventually.” I paid heed to her message and bought my first ‘nice’ pair of sunglasses with UV protection lenses.

The brand of choice for me and for many sailors as well as general outdoor enthusiasts is Kaenon. Kaenon is a brand committed to the outdoors and superior products. They sponsor athletes in a wide range of sports including sailing. Our own Andrew Spaulding has a personal story with Kaenon. Kaenon worked with his brother’s Olympic campaign to ensure they had the correct sunglasses for all the regatta conditions faced in different places around the world.

Kaenon uses SR-91 Polarized lenses that are the “only lens material that offers 100% broad spectrum UV protection and combine the superior optical quality of the finest glass and the lightweight, strength and impact resistance of polycarbonate.” They’ve taken these fine materials and offered what many have been waiting for, a mirror finished lens now found in the Black Label line by Kaenon.

The already clear and UV superior G12 lens “gets an amazing added layer of performance thanks to a black mirror finish.” The new Black Label Line comes in 5 styles; Trade, Ozlo, Pintail, Burnet, and Jetty. I’ve owned 3 of these styles and wore the Trades in to work today. Now I’ll have to get a pair of the Black Labels!

The details in both Kaenon’s lenses and frames have driven a serious following and loyalty to the brand. With lenses in multiple color varieties, gender focused and unisex frame options, and details such as hypoallergenic nose pads, Kaenon produces a superior product. The warranty on the lenses isn’t too shabby either.

At Crowley’s we keep around 60 pairs of lenses in stock. If we don’t have what you want, we can order them. You can even get your Kaenon lenses in prescription from a Kaenon approved optometrist.

You can check out more on their sailing community relationship here 

For more info on lens options click here   

For more info on warranty click here 

For the full line of frame options, visit the main page here 

Friday, July 18

Special Late Edition

A couple of days ago I was chatting with customer in the store. Our conversation, as are many conversations this week, was about the Mac race. I told this fine gentleman that I’d be missing the race this year due to work obligations that popped up last minute. The immediate response was, “Oh, that’s too bad!” It was like my dog just died.

As disappointed as I am to miss the race this year I’ve come to grips with reality and moved on, I think. “It’s just a sailboat race” I whimpered. Without hesitation, as if a programmed response, and in the most sincere tone I’ve ever heard he said, “But it’s a special one.” That’s when I realized, this really is a special race to so many people.

Being on the supply side of the race and someone that provides specialized parts, I see the madness. Oh, the madness is real. Customers transform from stunned and desperate to grins and giggles in a matter of minutes if not seconds when they realize I can next day a part that they absolutely must have to do the race. You’d think someone had just cured a terminal disease.

I’ll never forget finishing my first Mac. Over 72 exciting, frustrating, and sun burnt hours. As is the tradition, when we tied up at the dock we frantically yelled at the crew to run, literally run, to get a bag of ice for rum drinks and then immediately proceeded to jump in the almost frigid waters that surround the island. It was an amazing feeling.

I’m very grateful it was a hot summer and the water actually felt good. For those of you doing your first race and who will follow tradition, have a heating blanket ready to go. It’s going to be cold. Rum helps too.

I’ve heard so many strange comments about the Mac race working in the boating industry. “I hate this race.” “I live for this.” “I hate boats, water, and everything to do with them.” “It’s ok. We pretty much have to do it for the crew.”

My favorite comment was passed on from a friend. Her father had just won their section and he was full of uncontained joy. He told his daughter, “This is the greatest thing that’s ever happened next to the birth of my children.”

Now, it’s been a few years since I’ve heard that story. I could be mistaken. The quote may have changed ever so slightly in my head. Either way, the Chicago Race to Mackinac is something truly special.

To every sailor out there, when the flies start biting, the sun and sweat sting, and when the weather rolls in to challenge you, remember, you’re a part of something special. Sail fast. Sail safe.

For you newbies, stay out of the hot tub. You don’t want to go there. You’ll see.

Wednesday, July 9

Leukemia Cup Regatta

    Check it out. Do it. Do it.

You don't need to own a boat or race in the Regatta to fundraise for LLS! Anyone can set up a team and a fundraising page to receive all the incentives of an on-the-water captain. Or, skip the incentives and register for FREE. Visit and click on "REGISTER" to sign up, email or call Jude Hansen at 312-651-7743. Remember, most people have been touched by cancer. This is how sailors give back.

Stand Up Against Blood Cancers SUP Regatta, July 26, 11 am, Columbia YC
Battle for fun, prizes and SUP glory. $200 entry fee for 4-person team. All equipment provided. After party, awards and free drinks! Visit SUPCHI.COM for details.

LCR Poker Run & After Party, August 2, 1 pm, Corinthian YC
Start your engines! Poker Run $100 entry fee includes a hand of poker and one ticket to the After Party. Party on the lawn at Corinthian YC features gourmet food, open pour drinks, live music & more. Party tickets are $80 thru 7/19, then $95. Visit for tickets and info.

Red Sky Night, August 22, 6 pm, Columbia YC
Don't miss this chance to Party with a Purpose! $115 ticket includes open pour Rex Goliath wines, 312 beer and Gosling's Rum drinks, plentiful gourmet food and dessert stations, live music and stellar auctions. Ticket price goes up to $135 beginning 8/9, so register today. For menu, auction items and tickets, visit

Leukemia Cup Regatta, August 23, 1 pm, Columbia YC
Support the fight against blood cancers by participating in the Leukemia Cup. All funds benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. $125 registration fee includes a 2014 LCR cap and your boat's name on the official t-shirt thru 7/31. Fee goes up 8/1 to $150 and is $200 on race day. Post-race dock party features live music and ala carte Back Yard BBQ. Open pour Gosling's and 312 wrist bands $25. Brag flags for top fundraisers and finishers! Register today at

An Interview: 20 Questions with Production Manager, Andrew Spaulding - aka Spaulding

How long have you worked at Crowley’s?
2.5 years

How did you first start working here?
I was working at Brewer Yacht Haven in Stamford, CT. The real estate developer that owned the property thought he’d rather have a hedge fund office park on the property. My job search led me to CYY.

Which departments have you worked in?
My marine career includes, but not limited to working for Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club as a pump mechanic, dock kid in high school, race boat captain, an assistant engineer on a mega yacht, boat yard scheduler, service manager, and production manager.

What is your favorite time of year at Crowley’s? Fall – lots of work to keep busy, but not the pressure of spring.

How often do you go boating?
It ranges from a couple of times a week to a few times a month, really depends on which boat owners are out of town!

What kind of boat?
Sail, power, or whatever gets me out there. I am gaining a certain affinity for power cats.

Did you grow up boating?
Yup, before I could walk my father rigged up a bouncy seat in the companionway of my grandfather’s sailboat.

What is your favorite boating activity?
Either total relaxation on a power or sailboat, or hard-core racing on a sailboat

How many Employees work in your department?
20ish, the number goes way up in the spring/fall.

How often do they go to training?
We send techs from almost all the departments to training every off season.

What job specific training do you have?
I have all kinds of paper hanging on the wall plus lots of OJT. I’m most proud of my BA from UCONN and my Navy Achievement Medal. Currently, I’m working on the paperwork for my Captain’s license since I passed my exams over the winter.

What certifications do you have?
ABYC certified in Marine Corrosion and ABYC Standards.

What is your number one recommendation to boat owners?
Do your manufacturer recommended preventative maintenance.

In your area of expertise, what can a boat owner do to maintain their boat?
Keep it clean and tidy. This helps techs find problems and makes them more willing to spend time on your boat. Also, don’t ever take a short cut to do a quick repair particularly when it comes to your vessel’s wiring.

What is the one complaint that you hear most often?
Why isn’t it done yet?

What is your number one money saving tip for boat owners?
Preventative maintenance.

What is the toughest part of your job?
Telling people bad news – i.e. “Your boat isn’t going to be fixed for this weekend”. I know how bad you want to be out there.

When are you most likely to be found in the harbors?
After a day on the water!

What is your favorite winter activity?
Duh, warm water sailing in places like St. Marten, Antigua, or the BVI.

What is the best way to get a hold of you to ask a question?
Email: andrew@crowley

Wednesday, July 2

It's All Happening

Two weeks from today, Crowley’s will be setting up the Official Race to Mac Gear Tent at the Chicago Yacht Club. This is your opportunity to get official race gear and pick up those last minute items in the Crowley’s Safety Tent. In the Safety Tent we will have PFD’s, tethers, tape, whistles, and much more. The gear tent will have all the goodies with the official Race to Mac logo on them. Did I mention that all the gear this year is made by Gill? If you’re looking for some killer new foul weather, Gill will have a nice selection of gear on sale. You’ll want to check it out. It’s all happening.

Tent hours at the Chicago Yacht Club are:
Thursday July 17 from 12pm–8pm
Friday July 18 from 9am-11pm
Saturday July 19 from 8am-12pm

Oh wait, there’s more. Have you heard of the Ashore Thing? No? Well now you have. If you’re not racing, come out to the East end of Navy Pier the morning of Saturday, July 19th from 10am-1pm and see the amazing parade of boats headed out to the start of the race. Wouldn’t you know it; Crowley’s will be there too in case you missed out on all the action at the yacht club.

You thought I was finished. I’m not. There’s still more to come. Crowley’s and Gill will be up at the Island House Hotel on Mac Island. We will have a tent set up on the front lawn of the hotel as we have in years past. This is yet another opportunity to satisfy your Official Race to Mac Gear cravings. Pick up “something from the island” to show you made it and weren’t just having a bit of fun in Vegas.

Tent hours at the Island House Hotel are:
Sunday July 20 from 4-7pm
Monday July 21 from 10am-7pm
Tuesday July 22 from 10am-7pm
Wednesday July 23 from 8am-12pm

Of course with all of this happening outside of the yard, the Ship’s Store at Crowley’s Yacht Yard will be affected slightly. On Friday, July 18 the Ship’s Store will close at 3:30pm and stay closed through the weekend. The entire store staff will either be racing or traveling to the island or working the event in one aspect or another. Normal hours will resume on Monday, July 21.

Crowley’s Ship’s Store summer hours are:
Monday-Friday 8am-5pm
Saturday 8am-4pm
Sunday Closed

If you need any gear before we see you at the club, please call the store at 773.221.9990 and press 1 for the store when prompted. If you have any questions, email me at