For those who’ve tasted it, there’s nothing quite like summer on the water in Chicago. But there’s an old cliché that sums up the concerns of all too many: “The definition of a boat is a hole in the water into which you pour money.” And for a lot of people, the current economy has made buying a new boat an option that will have to be deferred. Recently, we’ve seen the advent of time sharing options in Chicago, and these go far to reduce both the up-front cost and annual expense of yachting. But, time-sharing confines the choice to a few variations with a common theme – new production boats that are all pretty much alike. If you have a taste for something different, and are interested in preserving the maritime heritage of the Great Lakes, there is another choice.
ROBERT ALLAN II and WILD GOOSE are two of the finest vintage yachts in Chicago. ROBERT ALLAN II is a 40’ motor yacht designed by Henry Grebe and launched at the Grebe yard in Chicago in 1936. She has twin Chrysler Crown engines, comfortably accommodates ten, and provides a unique way to see our air city from the Chicago River. Along with Geoffrey Baer, she was also the star of the 2005 WTTW – Channel 11 documentary,Chicago by Boat. WILD GOOSE is a 47’ Schooner, designed by Walter McInnis, and launched in Gloucester, Massachusetts in 1929. She also accommodates ten, and provides a marvelous option for day or evening sailing along the lakefront, or more extended cruising to Michigan, Indiana or Wisconsin. Both yachts are built of mahogany planking on oak frames, and the appearance of both vessels exemplifies an era when craftsmanship and fine wood-working skills were still readily available.
Two not-for-profit yacht clubs (limited to 20 members each) have been formed to acquire and preserve these fine vessels from the golden age of yachting. The Clubs insure that all members have weekly access as well as exclusive use for special occasions. Members enjoy cruising down to Navy Pier for the fireworks on Wednesdays and Saturdays, or motoring down the Chicago River to Lawrence’s Fisheries, sailing out to watch the start of the Mac Race, or just cruising along the lakefront at dusk and watching the sun set over the city, or the moon rise over Lake Michigan.
By spreading maintenance and operating expenses among Club members, the cost is less than a tenth the annual cost of sole ownership of a new boat of comparable size. There’s no purchase price, interest, depreciation, mooring fee, storage, insurance, maintenance or operating expense – everything is covered by a single annual payment for Club dues.
There’s also no need for prior boating experience. Club boats always leave the dock with a designated skipper. Those new to boating are encouraged to learn, and lend a hand at the helm or on deck – when they are ready and willing – but there’s no requirement to do so. The primary requirement of members is an appreciation for these fine vintage yachts, and a dedication to preserving them as part of the Chicago boating community.
Maritime Machines, LLC was formed in 2005 to provide operating and
maintenance services to the Clubs. The firm consists of five seasoned boaters with over 100 years of experience on the water and in the boatyard. In 2008, they completed a major restoration of ROBERT ALLAN II including replacement of the stem, twenty planks, twelve frames and eight butt blocks.
Jack Kraft, a former COO of Leo Burnett and Magnum Boats, is a current member of both Clubs, and recently commented that “Club membership is kind of like the difference between children and grandchildren. You can have grandchildren over for the weekend and send them home on Sunday night and let their parents take care of them the rest of the week!”
Those interested in learning more about yachting without ownership may visit www.maritimemachines.org, or call 773 771-6291 and ask for Captain Toby.
Official Website: http:/www.maritimemachines.org
Added by julieatheefs on May 29, 2009