My, How Times Have Changed

WelcomeWhen I was 14 in 1974, when my Dad bought his first "big boat" with a partner, it was used and they decided to make changes to it.  We ripped out the gas tank out of the back, had a new one built and installed it in the bilge. The stove and oven were fixed, we reconstructed the area and installed a gimbal so that it swings in waves and the pots stay on the stove.

The boat being designed for the West Coast, didn't have the horsepower (sail area) for Lake Michigan's lighter winds (don't believe that "Windy City" crap!), so we cut the mast in half and installed a 3' extension in the middle, replacing wood spreaders with new aluminum spreaders, lengthening shrouds, halyards, wiring and bigger sails.  In today's world they call this "turboing."  It didn't have this nickname back then.

This Cal 40 (40-footer) had a charcoal briquette heater in it, throughout the winter in Chicago we would show up, put 7 briquettes in it and in 1/2 hour strip off our winter coats, hats and gloves being down to t-shirts it warmed the cabin so well.  One out of 7 boats in the shipyard had others working on their boats during the winter, some were friends, others we didn't know.  Everyone dedicated to making improvements and repairs to their boats over winter, so once spring came they could enjoy their boat more.

This was in Grebe's Shipyard at Belmont and the Chicago River.  Today, the place was converted to a bunch of condominiums.  This is actually happening across the U.S. that many boating facilities are now cube boxes of condo's.

Fast forward to today, my Dad bought a 1975 35-footer called an Ericson 35, Mark II (for less than 5-figures) in June.  Compare it to buying a 1975 Chevy Impala that was used daily and the minimum done to take care of it. There's a little problem, I believe a boat should be perfect.  Everything should function 100%. I'm not that crazy about how it looks, but at least clean would be a good start.

So far, I have spent 28 days working on it in 5 months (which doesn't include the time in evenings running around to find parts, online to buy parts, and in the garage building things for installation on the weekends).  And, I've got a long way to go.

I'm alone, totally alone.

We pulled the boat out of the water early (September) and put it in Canal Street Marina in Chinatown (Chicago) to have some professional reconstruction work done (called re-coring).  Mic Ignatiuk owns Lakeside Marine and has a shop to work on boats. Mic is unbelievably knowledgeable, has rebuilt/repaired/reconstructed/repainted many boats, and whose work is magical artistry. This is "the guy" you want to do work on your boat.

As my Dad has retired to Florida, he isn't around to help at this time of the year. My sister who normally would help is on the DL.  But the shipyard is completely devoid of people every single weekend.  No one.  Not another sole.  No other cars. Nobody walking through.

I get told that people hire other people to maintain things now a days.  I guess this is the ultimate proof.  Our mantra has always been, "buy the biggest boat you can afford that you do your own work on," whereas everyone else must be "buying the biggest boat they can afford and paying others to do all of the work on."

Yesterday I worked (work is not true, I get paid $0) 8 hours on the boat (wiring, rigging, completing the installation of new door latches, and woodwork). At 6pm, it was dark and I'm coiling up the extension cords (I run a little electrical heater inside to take a bite out of the air in yesterday's rain, sleet and snow, plus I need power for the various tools) recognizing my oneness in a city of 8 million people with lights and buildings as far as the eye can see.

The shipyard is almost completely full of boats and is a ghost shipyard.  It's nothing like the 1970's.

How times have changed.

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