Thursday, May 28, 2009

Around the World in a Beneteau

Andy Lepiarczyk with the Mighty Chicken (photo credit: Jenelle Schneider, Vancouver Sun)

Although her paint job could use a color match, it is the journey that counts. The Mighty Chicken's yellow hue reminds me of the first sailboat I owned , Chiquita, and all the wonderful memories that came with her. Andy Lepiarczyk , owner of the 30ft Beneteau that he used to circumnavigate ,details some of his memories of his adventure. He epitomizes the spirit, wanderlust and adventure that yearns in the heart of every sailor. It is why we do, what we do AND on a Beneteau. Thank you to Tim Harrington for forwarding the article.

West Van resident conquers open seas

By Graeme Wood, Vancouver Sun May 20, 2009

After spending 13 months at sea sailing around the world, West Vancouver resident Andy Lepiarczyk says his most memorable moment was in fact on land.

Having not seen his wife Michele since he left the West Vancouver Yacht Club last April, the two reunited in November halfway around the world in Durban, South Africa.

"After being together for five minutes it was like we had never been apart," recounts Michele.
On a 30-foot sailboat Lepiarczyk crossed the Pacific and Indian oceans passing through Hawaii, Fiji, Vanuatu, and northern Australia. In South Africa the couple went on a safari and saw upwards of 70 elephants in a watering hole.

"That's on the top of my list. It's a very nice country," Lepiarczyk said.
Last Saturday, sporting a scruffy grey sailor’s beard, the 60 year-old completed his solo circumnavigation of the world, completing a life-long dream that began in his native country Poland.
“I was a man on a mission. The whole objective was to make circle around the world and nothing else,” Lepiarczyk said as he was once again greeted by Michele along with a swarm of friends at the yacht club.

Lepiarczyk took his accomplishment in stride. His friends describe him as humble, modest, and understated.

Asked what challenged him most during the trip, Lepiarczyk replied: “Frankly there is not too much to say. For most things I was well planned. I didn’t feel lonely, I didn’t feel stressed. Mostly, I had a lot of fun.”

Lepiarczyk is a mechanical engineer and his job requires a lot of sitting and staring at a computer screen. He calls sailing his “habit,” and has devoted much of his life to the sport.
His love of sailing began in Poland. As a youth he played soccer but it wasn’t until a university friend took him sailing on the Baltic Sea that he realized his life’s passion.

“After that I read too many [sailing] books, so it loosened up my marbles,” Lepiarczyk chuckled.
He moved to Canada in 1982 and has been sailing in English Bay for the past two decades, sometimes competitively.

Five years ago Lepiarczyk and Michele, his partner for over twenty years, flew to France to buy his yellow sailboat that he named 'The Mighty Chicken’ as an homage to Michele who refused to sail around Vancouver Island with him.

“She’s a day sailor,” Lepiarczyk said.

That year he gained valuable sailing experience by sailing Mighty Chicken across the Atlantic Ocean, through the Panama Canal and back to Vancouver.
Lepiarczyk described most of his time at sea without any serious setbacks.

“There is no day without troubles. It only matters how big the trouble is. I was lucky I didn’t have any major breakdowns,” he said.

Perhaps it was Lepiarczyk’s humility speaking but even if he did come across something more than your typical storm at sea Fred Butler, Lepiarczyk’s sailing friend, says veteran sailor could handle it.

“He’s very exacting, very patient, and very methodical,” Butler said.

Following South Africa, stops in St.Helena in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, St.Lucia in the Caribbean Sea, and another pass through Panama took him to Columbia where he met some unexpected fellow Canadians at sea.

The waters surrounding Columbia are known for piracy and Lepiarczyk saw a ship on his radar following him for days. But he never saw a ship on the horizon, or any lights at night. A few days later a Canadian frigate approached him and the sailors took photos and chit-chatted.

“It was special because it was a Canadian ship,” Lepiarczyk said.

Not knowing if any pirates had actually tailed Mighty Chicken, Lepiarczyk carried onwards to Hawaii to complete the circle.

He said he made incredible time during most of the voyage, averaging 135 miles a day. He had no time to read or relax, and barely slept well while at sea.

“Sleeping wasn’t a problem. Quality of sleep was. I was always tired,” he said.

Fatigued and worn down, it was on his way back to Vancouver from Hawaii when Lepiarczyk said he had his worst experience. His boat was tossed around by several storms and sent 300 miles due north from his charted path – something he blames on “his Excellency King Neptune.”
But alas, after a 10 day detour on the stormy Pacific, he arrived in Vancouver 31 days after leaving Hawaii.

“I’m pleased his dream is realized,” said Michele.

Lepiarczyk said he’s most looking forward to having some beers with friends, and a Jacuzzi.
But Michele said her husband can power wash the deck when he gets settled back at home.
“I think I’ve got a get out of jail card for the rest of my life,” she laughed.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

For the original story

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Picture of the Week: May 25, 2009

Photo: © ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi

This week's Picture is a reminder of living life on the edge, As the edge is always where you find the "best wind". This photo was taken of the First 36.7 Ascea Cadarache (FRA9546) Passing the Giraglia Rock in the Giraglia Rolex Cup. The race goes from St. Tropez, France to Genoa, Italy. As most sailors know, the dark nimbus clouds signify a strong weather front which is usually preceded by good winds. Ascea Cadarache appears to be handling the breeze well as she heads downwind.

Sailors Prevail: The Marine Industry in 2009

"So How is Business?". While the intention is always noble, the actual question makes you cringe at times. After awhile- you learn to make the conscious decision to focus on the positive and all will be OK. If you took a random sampling of business owners and surveyed them, I'm sure you'd find that many of them might opine the same. It ranks right up there with the question you're asked after you've been married for a month "So how is Married life?" (I think it's easier to explain the pythagorean theorum.) How are you supposed to answer that one?

To use a horrible baseball metaphor, I usually reply that "We aren't getting our runners to cross the plate by hitting home runs, but it's the base hits (three in order) that are scoring runs for us". "Code for" We're doing it one boat at a time. We are trying harder than ever before to focus on Customer Service because that is what we've built our business upon. We strongly believe THAT is the key to succeeding in this economy. It is what is keeping us going in these times. While we often forget, it's the thousands of little things that go on behind the scenes (that we address) that make a difference. Basically, it is what every business owner knows to be a self-evident truth for business in American these days- keep your chin down and keep working because if it is to be- it is going to be due to your efforts- not those of anyone else.

We've blogged about it many times here on Dock Talk. One of the best things about being a stocking dealer is that we have boats to sell. We have a stake in making sure that the boat we sell our customers is not the last one they buy from us. Most importantly, we are in it for the long haul. We aren't going anywhere. There are others that may sell out of the trunk of a car or out of a catalogue. This economy will shake them out. We have been blessed this past off-season to have the support of new and existing customers who have made it their mission to buck this economic mess and keep on living their lives. Keep on Sailing.
One of the best summaries of the Marine Industry was in the recent Cruising World article that ran this June Issue (being delivered as we speak). We've made it available on our website via the link below. We hope that you take the time to read it and share it with anyone thinking of ever owning a boat. It doesn't get any better than this.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Harbor Report 2009 Season

A few early season openings in Burnham Harbor.

WBBM 780 AM ran a news piece on the afternoon news report yesterday regarding slip availability in the Chicago Harbor System. The 'party line' for the Chicago Park District and Westrec is that there is "still a great demand for moorings in Chicago...There is still a waiting list of names over two pages long" is what was quoted as the official response from the harbor management team.

Many boaters in Chicago know this list to be outdated and inaccurate as there are names of people who have already been assigned moorings within the harbor network. The WBBM story interviewed a lady who had been instructed that she would not recieve a slip until 2016. This past week she was contacted and told that her slip was available. The WBBM reporter continued to comment that openings such as this ladies have possibly come due because of the economy and the possibility of there being less people keeping their boats, moorings or otherwise.

As we head into the Memorial Day weekend, which is typically the barometer for boating in Chicago and marks the informal start of the season, many boaters have commented that the harbors appear empty. Ask us in a few weeks and we'll let you know as we are still putting boats in for customers. In the meantime- all we can report is a huge rush for boats in the past week from people who have gotten their assignments in a relatively short time.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Picture of the Week: May 18, 2009

This week's Picture of the Week comes from Capri at Rolex Capri Sailing Week 2009. A Great 'Water level shot of the Faraglioni Rocks' Photo Credit:© ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi

Friday, May 15, 2009

Chicago Park District set to add 2 new high-profit harbors

Park District prepares to boost capacity by more than 1,100 boats

By Jaime Adame Special to the Chicago Tribune
May 15, 2009

Barring unforeseen problems with needed approvals, construction could begin next spring on two city harbors that would expand the number of mooring spaces for recreational boaters by about 20 percent and bring in more tourism dollars,
Chicago Park District officials say.

The Chicago Gateway Harbor project involves a reinforcement of dilapidated Dime Pier, located about 480 feet south of Navy Pier and 400 feet north of Chicago Harbor Lock, and creation of nightly as well as hourly boating slips. The harbor could open in 2011, parks officials say.

"Gateway will be the only Park District harbor intended primarily for visiting boaters," said Park District spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner. A lack of such docking opportunities "represents a loss in revenue and related economic impact potential," according to the Chicago Lakefront Harbor Framework Plan.

The second and larger of the projects, at 31st Street, was a proposed Olympic sailing venue, though bid officials now say Burnham Harbor would be used for sailing.

If Chicago is awarded the 2016 Olympics, displaced boaters could look to the new harbors for mooring spaces, park officials say.

Parks officials conducted an economic feasibility study that suggested both harbor projects will be profitable, Maxey-Faulkner said. Existing harbors cannot meet the demand for slips, with more than 700 boaters on a waiting list, added Rob Rejman, director of capital construction for the Park District.

Yet, the number of slips at Gateway and their proximity to tour boats tied up at Navy Pier raised safety concerns. The project ended up with 265slips, a decrease of 38 percent.

Of the five tour boat operators who dock on the South Side of Navy Pier, some say the harbor design still is problematic because larger ships and smaller boats would navigate the heavily trafficked Navy Pier fairway.

"It just seems like they're trying to squeeze too much into a small area," said Anthony Difiglio, general manager for Anita Dee Yacht Charters. "It's not really a question of if you'll have an accident, it's a question of when," he said.

Yet Coast Guard Cmdr. Paul Mehler III called the project "a balancing act between profit and safety."

"It is my belief that we can do it safely, but steps are going to have to be put in place to manage that many recreational boaters," said Mehler, in charge of the marine safety unit in Chicago.

The 31st Street Harbor would add about 850 slips. Parks officials say it may take until 2012 to finish that project, which includes an underground parking garage, a community building and a breakwater that curls into Lake Michigan.

In a May 1 letter to the Park District, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources said it was ready to recommend the 31st Street Harbor project proceed. The agency was awaiting a response from the city to six letters received during the comment period about the Gateway project.

The projects must be authorized by state lawmakers, and also await approval from the Chicago Plan Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Nine marinas already dot Chicago's shoreline, but the more than 5,000 moorings aren't enough, said Gary Hooper, civic chairman for the Chicago Yachting Association.

"We feel the city is needing the slips throughout the system, especially if we get the Olympics," he said.The harbors would be the first built since DuSable Harbor opened with 420 slips in 2000. Before that downtown project, no Chicago marina had been built in 65 years.

Plans for both projects were announced in 2007, when park officials estimated the cost of the 31st Street project at about $42 million and the Gateway project at $24 million. They now estimate the 31st Street project will cost $75 million, and the Gateway project about $35 million.

Last month, park officials agreed to pay up to $3.7 million to
URS Corp. to manage construction. Bidding on the construction contracts is expected this winter. Rejman said the Park District won $3.1 million in federal grant money earmarked for projects that benefit short-stay boaters.

Revenue bonds will finance construction, with mooring fees expected to cover ongoing costs, parks officials say.

Fees vary by harbor and Gateway "will be among the higher priced of our harbors," Rejman said. "We think this harbor's going to do really well."Hooper said he recently paid more than $10,500 for a 60-foot slip with some amenities in DuSable Harbor.

The new harbors will be needed to handle the 1,600 boaters who may be displaced from other harbors by the Olympics, he said.

But the harbor projects were "cued up really before we heard anything about the Olympics," Rejman said. A third proposed harbor at the site of the former USX steel mill is on the back burner, he added.

Revisions to the Gateway harbor design -- widening the fairway near the western end of the pier by 40 feet to 190 feet as well as reducing the number of slips -- won support from some tour boat operations. "We feel it's very workable," said Dan Russell, vice president and general manager of Entertainment Cruises Chicago. His company's boats will dock on new finger pier structures to be added to the east end of Navy Pier, he said. The Coast Guard's Mehler said that although harbor officials addressed many of the safety concerns, more recommendations have been made to the state Department of Natural Resources.

He wants a harbor master to help control traffic, something the Park District said in a mid-April letter will happen. He also seeks additional widening of the fairway, expressing concern that the finger docks extending from Navy Pier could cause more congestion. And he called for safety courses for boaters.

"Our challenge is to educate them and make them aware of the challenges specific to the downtown Chicago waterfront, but people have the right to enjoy the water. It is one of the beautiful attributes Chicago has to offer, and it is our challenge to have them do it safely," Mehler said.

Freelance reporter Mike Helfgot contributed to this report

Online Story via

DuSable HarborHouse Opens.... Finally

DuSable's New 'Green' Harbor House

The Construction started last year on the crosswalk bike path between DuSable Harbor Parking Lot and the 'compass walkway' rendering the area unuseable for most of the 2008 season. It was the first sign of hope that Westrec and the Chicago Park District might actually be following through on it's promise of a permanent structure. However, in a city who's unofficial motto is "Wait until next year", DuSable boaters have been doing just that since the harbor opened almost nine years ago. So to kick off the 2009 boating season (several of thousands of dollars in slip fee increases later) we welcome the new permanent structure.

DuSable Harbor was opened in 2000 originally as "Millenium Harbor" and later named DuSable after Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable , the Haitian settler billed as the "Father of Chicago". Located at Randolph and Lake Shore Drive, DuSable Harbor is home to 420 boats ranging from 25 foot in length to over 60 feet, DuSable is the last new harbor to be built in the largest municipal marina system in the United States.

Billed a 'green construction' the new harbor house also incorporates a bike path cross over bridge which alleviates the common problem of bikers hitting pedestrians in the crosswalk. A nice grassy knoll serves as the roof to the structure. It makes a great vantage point to watch Wednesday night fireworks for all who walk, roll or sail to DuSable.

If you are in the area, come by and visit...

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DuSable Photos

A Pedestrian Friendly Crosswalk at DuSable Harbor

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Karma Poll: Top Local Cruising Destination

Picture of the Week: May 11, 2009

This week's picture of the week comes from the Yachting Magazine Photo Gallery- Mid Coast Maine photos. This bridge photo caught our eye because it looks alot like the new North Avenue Bridge near Goose Island on the North Branch of the Chicago River. Related by Architect? Perhaps.

Great Lakes Clean-up to get $475 Million next year

The View from Chicago's Greatest Assett-Lake Michigan

WASHINGTON -- Cleaning up the Great Lakes and tributaries and keeping them healthy -- and navigable -- will take a lot of money. President Barack Obama, building on blueprints authorized by then-President George W. Bush in 2004 and completed in 2005, has shown a commitment to the plan known as the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy.

Obama has pledged more money to the strategy, $475 million for the coming fiscal year, than any White House predecessor.

Read More

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

After near-record lows, Lake Michigan's water level rises nearly 2 feet

Lake Michigan is on the rebound after flirting with near-record low water levels in 2008.
In January 2008 the water was so low that the human polar bears taking their annual New Year's Day plunge off the Door Peninsula had to navigate around yellow police tape so they didn't slash their feet on an offshore shipwreck.
Sixteen months and two cold and wet winters later, the lake has added more than 2 feet of water, and it continues to rise almost daily.
Numbers provided by the Army Corps of Engineers last week showed the lake is about 9 inches higher than at this time last year, and the agency is predicting it to continue to add inches into late summer.
Despite the big gain, Lake Michigan remains about 9 inches below its long-term average for April.
Read more

Monday, May 4, 2009

Picture of the Week: May 4, 2009

Photo Credit: Carlo Borlenghi

This week's picture of the week is from the 2007 Rolex Fastnet race. First 44.7 "COURRIER DU COEUR" crosses the finish line in the 607 mile race classic. For 2009 the Fastnet 'sold out' in just sixty days. Read More