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.


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