Tuesday, August 26

The Grind

By Michael Argyelan

The American work force has been celebrated nationally on Labor Day since June 28, 1894. That’s 120 years celebrating hard work of extraordinary citizens and non-citizens alike to create our roads, buildings, pipelines, and so much more. For many Labor Day is an opportunity to spend time with our families and friends. Not everyone has this luxury.

If you have the day off on Monday and run into anyone working, thank them. When you drive past the harbors or your favorite skyscraper, remember it took hundreds of thousands of laborers working in incredibly dangerous conditions to make Chicago and the rest of the cities across the country functional and beautiful. As we sail across the lake or spend time with family, remember to have a sense of gratitude. For those of us not working, someone else likely is.

Below I’ve posted a couple of links on the history of Labor Day including a short bit on the history of Rosie the Riveter. If you’re sailing in the Tri/Bi State race this weekend, best of luck to you. Sail fast. Sail Safe. Email me your pics from the weekend at mma@crowleys.com. How do you celebrate Labor Day weekend?


The Ship's Store at Crowley's will be closed at 3:30pm Friday, August 29th and resume normal hours on Tuesday, September 2nd. 

Wednesday, August 20

Nice Shaft

By Michael Argyelan

Get your head out of the gutter. We’re talking about prop shafts here. PSS (Packless Sealing System) Shaft Seals have been keeping bilges dry for years. If you are getting water into your bilge and/or engine compartment from your stuffing box and would like to keep things nice and dry, you should look into changing out your standard stuffing box to a drip-less shaft seal by PYI.

I’ve talked to so many boaters who complain about replacing the packing on their stuffing box, adjusting it every year, or having issues keeping the bilge dry when they run the engine for a long time. The PSS system is the solution. No more adjusting. No more packing. No more water.

This is not a new product by any means. Many of our customers already have these installed and seem to love them. They’re on racing boats, day cruisers, power boats, commercial boats, etc. Why not yours?

From the manufacturer, “The PSS Shaft Seal is a mechanical face seal that is created between the flat surfaces of the rotating stainless steel rotor and the stationary carbon flange. The stationary carbon flange is attached to the vessels stern tube with hose clamps and the carbon flange is attached to the front side of the bellows with hose clamps. The stainless steel rotor is fit on the shaft in front of the carbon flange. The stainless steel rotor is used to compress the bellows before the collar is secured to the shaft with set-screws. This compression (pre-load) maintains contact between the faces and allows the PSS to compensate for the thrust from the propeller. The carbon flange is bored larger than the shaft diameter allowing it to “float” around the shaft and thus compensate for most misalignment and vibration problems. The stainless steel collar is sealed to the shaft by two o-rings that are recessed into the bore of the collar. These o-rings rotate with the shaft and stainless steel rotor and do not experience wear during operation.”

If you’re interested in the PSS Shaft Seal system, there are a few things to keep in mind. The unit must be installed with the boat out of the water. Depending on the shaft length and room between the transmission and the stern tube, you may need to pull the prop and/or drop the rudder to extend the shaft out far enough to get the unit in. To properly size and price a drip-less shaft seal you will need the diameter of the shaft and the diameter of the shaft tube.

These units will work on shafts from ¾” up to 6” so it’s likely that they will work on 90% of the pleasure boats in the Chicago area. There are some boats where there is not enough room for the PSS seal to fit, either lengthwise along the shaft or between the stern tube and the hull. Also, some shafts need the support of the packing to keep from whipping excessively. If you are interested in a drip-less shaft seal and you have any questions regarding the fit for your boat, contact us for a consultation.

Have questions? Want more information? Would you like a quote to have one installed over the winter lay-up season? Contact Andrew Spaulding at aks@crowleys.com and he will get the ball rolling. 

Thursday, August 14

Pics of the Week


By Michael Argyelan

Over the last few years, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of putting a “race” crew together. Dozens of people have come out to sail with my wife and I and it’s truly a gift. After last night’s beer can race, I was thinking about crew development and figured it’s a good time to write on it.

Honestly, I’ve had marginal success developing a crew. We started at the bottom and with the basics; jib and main. Almost all of us were newbies to racing. I had never put a crew together or driven the start of a race.

Rules, protocol, yacht club tabs were all new to us. Occasionally we are able to bring out some ‘ringers’ to coach us through a few races. We started out racing with friends that wanted to learn how to sail – also known as, “You have a boat? I’ll come!”

Along the way we made more friends and more people came out to sail with us. Our best efforts were made to keep PBR and Mount Gay Rum in business. The first season’s stats were moderate at best.

We were beginners. We had fun. We were first in fun.

The next season of beer can racing, we were much better. We finished first in the ever so illustrious Jam section at Columbia Yacht Club. It was very exciting.

Over the next couple of years we bought a new boat, started racing in the spin 3 section, and got clobbered. We did our best to learn the new boat and how it handled. Training our crew focused on who, what, when, and where of spinnaker racing. Some nights I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. So, we drank more beer and learned from our mistakes and vowed to get better and have more fun with every race.

This year we are performing much better. The fun meter is also up. What has been the most difficult part of the last couple of years is maintaining a consistent crew. Jobs, families, weddings, and the like for some reason are considered more important than sailboat racing. I still don’t understand it.

I’ve spoken with many sailors on the docks and the clubs. Maintaining a solid crew seems to be one of the most difficult aspects of sailboat racing. Whether you’re competing at the national level or just heading out for the Wednesday night beer can series keeping a consistent crew can be an incredible challenge.

Some boats are able to keep the same crew for years and years with only a few pinch hitters covering when need be. How do they do it? Is there some magical power they hold? Are they rewarding crew with champagne rather than the champagne of beers?

After reading up on some message boards and articles along with talking to friends and other racers, I’ve come up with some tips for finding, maintaining, and developing crew.

First, always have beer. Never, ever run out of beer. It’s key.

Second, have fun. Don’t be the guy or girl yelling at your crew who blew off their friend’s birthday party just to help race your boat. We aren’t winning money here so keep it light and keep it fun. I’ve actually witnessed a skipper jumping up and down in the cockpit throwing a fit and screaming at his crew. I might have opted to swim back to the club and most certainly would never step foot back on that boat.

Third, keep your boat in good working order. No one wants to race on a boat that’s always breaking down or with sails that are in absolute shambles. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to have the best of the best. Just keep your equipment maintained and in good condition.

Fourth, keep consistent crew in consistent positions if you can. If someone is developing as a good spin trimmer keep them in that position until you are absolutely confident that they can move on. If you constantly move your crew from position to position they will never gain the confidence that’s needed. Trust me, I’ve tried it the other way around and it doesn’t work.
After reading up on some articles on the interwebs, apparently Gary Jobson and others don’t think so either. Keep things consistent for consistent results. It works.

Finally, be grateful anyone showed up at all. Without gratitude you will find yourself solo sailing. Crew shirts, dinners, rum, beer, non-sailing activities and the like are great ways to develop a feeling of gratitude and loyalty. After all, one definition of crew is, “A group of people who work closely together.” It’s done together, not alone. Without crew, you may as well just play golf.

Now, if you’re looking to crew and get into racing what can you do? Let’s start with beer. Always bring beer if possible. Especially your first couple of times out as it shows respect for the skipper and the rest of the crew you’re working your way into. It’s the same as showing up empty handed to a party, you just don’t do it.

Next, be prepared to do everything and nothing on any given day or night. If you’re really light on experience, you might be relegated to ‘rail meat’ or movable human ballast. It is what it is. Have fun with it. Be grateful.

While you’re on the rail keep in mind this is a great time to learn, not to talk about your new jorts (here’s a link to images of jorts just in case you want a good giggle.) Start asking yourself key questions. Are other boats tacking? Are a majority of boats going to one side of the coarse or the other? Take this opportunity to pick up on the seemingly endless lingo that spews from the mouths of sunburned sailors. There’s a lot to learn on the rail.

Additionally you can take a class or participate in a crew program. Columbia, Corinthian, and Chicago yacht clubs all offer a crew program. Private companies also offer basic through advanced lessons. Some companies also offer crew packages as well. There are all types of options to fit budgets and schedules of all kinds. The key is to get time on the water and practice.

Once you pick up the lingo and the basics of sailing, read. Pick up every magazine, article on the web, message boards, etc. Keep your recent knowledge base fresh and up to date. Always keep learning.

Finally, and yes I’m repeating myself, bring beer. Rum helps too.

Have tips? Extra crew you have to turn away? Know of a boat looking for crew? Chime in! Email me at mma@crowleys.com and I’ll post crew opportunities in the next newsletter.

Wednesday, August 6

On the Line

By Michael Argyelan


This weekend more than 120 boats will hit the starting line racing in the Chicago Yacht Club Verve Cup and the Tartan 10 North American Championships. 91 registered boats will compete for the Verve Cup and 35 T10’s will do their best to vow for the ultimate title of North American Champion. Mostly, everyone should have a good time.

As usual, there will be multiple circles for the Verve offshore almost due east of Monroe Harbor as well as an offshore long distance race. The T10’s will be racing in a separate circle off of Belmont Harbor. The Tartan 10 NAC races start this Thursday and race through Sunday. For those racing for the Cup, races start Friday and run through Sunday as well. If you want to follow the results, click here for the T10’s and here for the Verve Cup. For the main page, click here.

Admittedly, I have to ask myself what’s so special about yet another regatta in Chicago? First, I love this stuff and can’t get enough. Second, I support any local regatta. Sailing is fun and the more opportunities to race the better. The Verve Cup offers racing for one design boats, ORR, as well as long distance racers that don’t want to commit an entire weekend to buoy racing. Last but not least, I’m very excited about 35 Tartan 10’s on a starting line.

Some of you may not know just what it takes to compete at the national level in a one design class. Each boat must have a current measurement certificate. This ensures that each boat is meeting strict one design criteria. Also, each crew must be weighed in. Yep, strict one design classes have crew weight limits.

Each class is different. For the Tartan 10 Class, total crew weight must not exceed 1,275lbs. If a boat brings in a different crew as a fill in for a day, he or she must be weighed in as well.

Most of the T10’s are from Chicago. Some boats will be from Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. I’m rooting for a Chicago boat to take it all. My top five picks are Skidmarks, Convergence, Winnebago, Honey Badger, and Norboy. The most fun boat on the water will be Mutiny! I’m personally rooting for them, they’re my peeps.

Really, it’s anyone’s race to be had. I’ve seen boats come back from 9th place after committing a foul, doing their penalty circle, and take a 2nd. That’s all it takes, a good puff, being on the right side of a shift, or simply put, a little luck. I’ll take luck any day.

Unfortunately, overall numbers for the Verve Cup are dropping each year. Last year, not including T10’s, there were 106 boats registered and the year before 111. You can see the numbers are dwindling.

Can the regatta survive? Chime in. Don’t like my picks for the top 5? Who do you think will win the T10 NAC’s? Post here.