Friday, March 20

Tales from Margaritaville

By Greg Gills

Languishing in the used and neglected part of the lot we found a 1971 Pearson. We didn’t see her for what she was, only for what she could be.  It was an affordable boat for a school teacher with a stay at home wife and two children.  A $12,000 boat; a boat with issues. I was staring directly at one of those issues. My issue stared back at me.  It was an enormous split in the front of a molded keel, like a crooked smile. 

It was the summer of 1994 and I was sitting on a five gallon plastic bucket. The sun was shining, the temperature was in the low 80’s and I was facing the keel of my new “old” boat.  My wife and I had moved up from our Oday 22 to a 33 foot Pearson. “Two foot itus” had morfed into “11 foot itus”.
I knew virtually nothing about boat repair at that time in my life.  I worked on my own cars, built things around the house, tinkered with my O’day but never had taken on a project like Margaritaville.  My life was about to change. 

From behind I heard the distinct scuffing sound that shoes make on gravel.  I was, after all, at Crowley’s Yacht Yard, the old yard on Corbet with its acres of dust and gravel. Pulling up a milk carton crate and sitting down next to me was John Spies. John looked over my smiling keel and quietly introduced himself. He asked for a magic marker, and then drew an outline on my boat. “Take your grinder and cut this **** out, clean out all the **** inside and when your finished come on over to the fiberglass shop.” When he walked away it dawned on me that I was a mid-40’s do-it-your-selfer getting help from the head of the fiberglass shop. 

I had always felt I was a very small fish in the sea of Crowley’s customers, insignificant in comparison to people of means and boats of stature. Yet John seemed genuinely interested in helping a guy who was genuinely interested in learning how to work on his own boat.  And so began the first summer of what was to be 21 years at Crowley’s Yacht Yard. By the end of year one and under John’s tutelage,  I could fiberglass most things without fear, had started a relationship with Phil Pollard who was running the ships store, was on a first name basis with John Trogen the yard manager, and felt I was more than just a customer or number on a spread sheet. After 21 years, I still store my boat at the yard, help at events, make numerous friends, and just had Margaritaville’s hull sides painted. The journey continues.

The old girls not done yet, but she’s close, and a family of friends at Crowley’s has been part of the process every step of the way.


Friday, March 13


By Michael Argyelan

It’s going to be above 60 degrees today. The ice on the southern end of the lake is melting. The sun is shining. Local scholastic sailors start sailing next weekend. Chicago Yacht Club Frostbite Series starts March 22nd (details here). In early to mid April the perch begin to run and the fishing season begins. Yes, it’s that time of year to really dig in and get ready to go boating! I’m a little excited. It happens.

One of the first things we do to get ready to sail is prep the hull with a good wash and wax. Some of us have newer, shiny hulls that simply need a quick touch up. Others may have older hulls that need a little more work. Want to know the best way to revive an older, tired, chalky hull or to maintain that glorious shine? Come to the aptly named “Care and Maintenance of your Gelcoat Surfaces” seminar during Yachtapalooza. The seminar begins at 9am and is hosted by John Spies and Matt Markiewicz (aka Matty) in the Fiberglass Shop. Check out the full Yachtapalooza Seminar here.

If you’re new to sailing or have a friend looking to learn, check out Corinthian Yacht Club’s Crew School. There is very limited space for this course. Check out the website here.

What: Learn basic to intermediate crewing skills for Lake Michigan - many opportunities to race or cruise.
Who: 18 years and up
Cost: $140 includes book and materials
When: 5 consecutive Wednesdays 7-9:00pm April 9 - May 21, 2014
Where: Chicago Corinthian Yacht Club 601 W Montrose Drive (east of Lake Shore Drive) 

If you’re ready to go boating in early May, you really, really should participate in the Dash to the Dock Race. Well, it’s not much of a race. It’s more of a rally than a race and it’s a lot of fun.

It’s May 9th and open to all sailing vessels. Motor vessels are encouraged to join in the fun with a "blackjack run" (a pared down poker run), accompany the fleet and peel off for informal drag-races with each other. Don’t forget to join us at the party!

The party is complete with food and beverages at the Columbia Yacht Club Dock in Monroe Harbor. Dock space will be available during the party for guests who would rather complete the trip to their slips on full stomachs. Yacht Clubs in other harbors have expressed interest in hosting their own parties, so please check with your closest yacht club for details.

For more information and to register for what’s going to be fun and relaxing trip to the harbors, visit You can also visit the Facebook Page here