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Harrison Township family enjoys success in yacht sales, marina life after 100 …

Harrison Township

August 1, 2013

By Julie Snyder
C G Staff Writer

HARRISON TOWNSHIP — There’s been a recent resurgence of used yacht sales, and the Velger family is enjoying the benefits.

But not every year has been as lucrative as 2013.

Four generations of the Velger family have owned and operated boat sale businesses and marinas around metro Detroit for more than 100 years, and there have been ups and downs during that time.

Rick Velger, who owns and manages Hideaway Harbor and Yacht Sales on Jefferson Avenue in Harrison Township along with his brother Bob Velger, said his great grandfather William Velger started selling bait and renting row boats in Detroit in the late 1800s.

“He started renting wooden boats on the Detroit River,” Rick Velger said. “He had a very successful business right on Alter Road.”

From there, the responsibilities of running what would later become the area’s most recognizable boat sales and marina businesses on Lake St. Clair were passed down to William’s son, Earl Velger, who opened the 180-slip Velger Boat Harbor just south of the then non-existent spillway in the 1930s.

Today, the marina is owned and run by Earl Velger Jr. and his sister Marilyn Velger. Just a short distance north on Jefferson is the 700-slip Beacon Cove Marina, Hideaway Marina, a full-service marina with 110 slips and 90 annual and summer-only storage spaces, and on the west side of the street is Hideaway Yacht Sales — each owned and run by a member of the Velger family.

“I sold my first boat when I was 13,” said Rick Velger, who can be found at Hideaway Yacht Sales showroom, helping customers with boat purchases. “Just like the rest of our family, my brother and I grew up in this business.”

Hideaway Yacht Sales calls itself the world’s largest Rinker dealer, but the business also carries  a full line of Sea Hunt, Polar Kraft, Hurricane and Xcursion pontoon boats, which Rick Velger said are a very popular, inexpensive way to get into boating.

He said more people are purchasing used yachts today rather than new, but sales of new cruisers appear to be on the rise.

“Our biggest year for sales was in the mid-1980s,” said Rick Velger, 47. “There were many years, in the ’80s and ’90s, when the economy was good and people had money to spend on yachts or cruisers. Then it began to sink, but sales are coming back.”

Earl Velger Jr., 72, still operates Beacon Cove with his three partners, one of whom is a member of the Velger family, and up until a few short years ago, he also ran the showroom at the site he developed and built next to Hideaway sales. Earl Velger Jr. retired from the sales part of the family business and sold the site to Metro Boat, which about a year ago sold it to Wilson Marine.

“The economy started getting bad and it was a big operation,” said Earl Velger Jr., adding that he and his family all reside in Harrison Township. “The size of it didn’t justify the number of boats being sold at that time.”

The family also offers to its customers towboat memberships through TowBoatUS. There are 10 towboats behind Beacon Cove that will go onto the lake to aid boaters in distress.

“On July 4, we did more tows than anyone in the country,” said Rick Velger. Why so busy? Some locals claim Lake St. Clair is one of the busiest lakes in the continental United States, and in April, Bassmaster Magazine ranked it No. 1 in the 100 Best Bass Lakes of 2013.

“We get a lot of boats out on Lake St. Clair during the summer,” Rick Velger continued. “Harrison Township is called Boat Town because this is a huge boating area.”

Which means business doesn’t close when winter comes along.

“The marinas close for winter storage, but the showroom is always open,” said Rick, adding that all the marinas combined have more than 1,000 boat slips. “We buy and sell a lot of yachts in the winter.”

And Hideaway is a staple sight at local boat shows, which traditionally are held in the fall and winter, including Novi, Detroit and at Lake St. Clair Metropark. Rinker Boats named Hideaway Yacht Sales its Top Dealer for 2012, and the business sold $1 million in 360 Rinker cruisers at the 2013 Detroit Boat Show in February.

Rick Velger said while Harrison Township has changed radically since the 1930s, business remains the same and generations of families have returned to do business with generations of the Velger family.

“Back in the ’30s and ’40s, this was just a cottage area and most of the tax base came from the marinas,” he said. “Now it’s mostly residential.”

But the increase in residential property means more returning customers.

“We have a lot of repeat business — a lot of families who come to us year after year — and some customers are on their 10th boat with us,” said Rick Velger. “Just this week, I took a trade-in of a used boat that the gentleman had bought new from my grandfather during the 1980 Detroit Boat Show. Now, 33 years later, he trades it in for a new boat from his (Earl Velger Sr.’s) grandson. That’s great!” 

Hideaway Harbor and Yacht Sales, as well as Beacon Cove Marina and Velger Marina, are all located on Jefferson between Shook and Crocker in Harrison Township. For more information, call (586) 493-9900.

You can reach C G Staff Writer Julie Snyder at or at (586)498-1039.

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Sailing toward the future

For 20 children from the Oak View community in Huntington Beach, getting to sail in 4-foot boats at the Newport Sea Base is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Since June, they learned how to tie different types of knots, learned essential boating terminology and practiced sailing alone.

All that worked paid off Saturday when they boarded much larger 35- to 40-foot sailboats at the Balboa Yacht Club in Corona del Mar and coasted through Newport Harbor.

The Big Boat Sail, as event organizers called it, was part of the Oak View-based El Viento program — which helps underprivileged children from that community get into college.

Around five club members donated their sailboats and time and navigated the length of Newport Harbor. About three or four incoming fifth graders, along with family members and El Viento supporters, were on each of the five boats.

Some of the El Viento students sat at the front of the boat and soaked in the experience. Others got the chance to get behind the helm and steer the boat.

While the cruises through the harbor fared well for most, others ran into a little problem.

Naomi Morales, 10, said the boat “crashed a little” and she almost fell off .

“I grabbed her by the lifejacket,” said Jesus Torres, who was quick to react. “She was about to fall in, so I grabbed it.”

Torres, 10, said he learned that maneuver when they were practicing how to recover from capsizing.

It was the third time the nonprofit hosted the sailing event, with the last one held about three years ago, according to Julie Taber, operations manager for El Viento.

“Members of the Balboa Yacht Club have been asking when they’re going to be doing this again,” she said.

The idea of having the children sail stems from the nonprofit’s founder Jack Shaw, who is also a member of the Balboa Yacht Club, and his love of sailing.

“I wanted to get the kids to experience something besides the barrio,” he said. “This sailing became a metaphor for life, to get them out and get them to see a different reality.”

Iosefa Alofaituli, executive director of the Oak View Renewal Partnership, said he heard two girls that were on one of the sailboats yell out that Saturday was the best day ever. He appreciates El Viento’s work to help the community grow.

“It demonstrates how exposure to new things brings a lot enthusiasm and hope for our community,” he said.

Shaw and his wife started the nonprofit in 1997, wanting to help children get into college. He said he was directed to the Oak View community — bordered by Warner and Slater Avenues, Beach Boulevard and Gothard Street — and soon took the Latino-dominated neighborhood under his wing.

According to the Oak View Renewal Partnership’s website around 32% of those in the community were below the poverty line in 2011, with a per capita income of $16,673.

“These kids are our tomorrow and we’re giving them a start in terms of having the kinds of choice and opportunities that guys like me always had,” Shaw said. “It’s a matter of opportunity and giving them a break.”

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Youngsters getting OnBoard with scheme

Youngsters getting OnBoard with scheme

By Laura Kitching

FRIENDS TOGETHER: Youngsters at the OnBoard Club, based at SailLaser Weymouth

A CHILDREN’S sailing club on Portland has seen interest hotting up thanks to sunshine, a new fleet of boats and a ‘Bring a Friend’ scheme.

More than 60 youngsters are now regularly attending the two OnBoard sessions held by SailLaser Weymouth at the borough’s National Sailing Academy at Osprey Quay.

OnBoard is the Royal Yachting Association’s national programme to introduce sailing and windsurfing as a sport for young people.

The local group is proving so popular that SailLaser Weymouth is now holding two club sessions – on Tuesday evenings from 5pm to 7.30pm and Saturday mornings from 10am to 12.30pm.

Sailing centre manager Warren Surtees said: “OnBoard is really starting to heat up as people are making the most of the good weather. Over 60 children have now joined and we regularly have around 30 children per session.

“We’ve got a new fleet of Laser FunBoats, which are providing great platforms for beginners to learn how to sail and build confidence.

“Our new ‘Bring a Friend’ scheme means OnBoard sailors can now bring a non-sailing friend to give them the opportunity to get into the sport.

This is proving very popular as they can take the opportunity to show their friends what they can do on the water.”

SailLaser Weymouth has also launched an OnBoard loyalty card scheme so that members who attend five sessions get a sixth for free.

Surtees added: “OnBoard is a cheap way for the local community to get involved with sailing.

“Following on from the Olympics last year and this year’s relaunch of the sail for £5 scheme we have seen numbers rise in sailing activity.

“SailLaser has a goal of getting 50 children involved in OnBoard every Tuesday evening and Saturday morning.

“The cost of the session is only £10 per child and it is the perfect way to practise skills you learn during the RYA courses and gain confidence and experience to move onto the next level.”

To find out more telephone SailLaser Weymouth on 0845 3373214.

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Pier 33 Announces Expanded September Dates for Yacht Brokerage & Pre …

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Pier 33 is a full-service marina and boat dealership, located in St. Joseph, Michigan.

Many of our boat sellers would rather have a bigger window of opportunity for boat buyers to see the boats we have for sale.

St. Joseph, MI (PRWEB) July 31, 2013

Pier 33 of St. Joseph, Michigan has announced expanded dates for the 2013 Pier 33 Yacht Brokerage and Pre-Owned Boat Show.

Traditionally, this annual event has been just a three-day show, held Friday thru Sunday.

In response to boat owner requests and the increasing demand for used boats, Pier 33 has expanded the 2013 show dates to cover nine days. This year’s Pier 33 Yacht Brokerage and Pre-Owned Boat Show will be held September 14 thru 22, Saturday thru Sunday.

“There is quite a bit of effort that goes into gathering the boats together and readying them for the show and many of our boat sellers would rather have a bigger window of opportunity for boat buyers to see the boats we have for sale,” according to Pier 33 General Manager Tighe Curran. “Plus, we’ll have the advantage of two full weekends so we’re less likely to get weathered-out and buyers will have more opportunity to fit the show into their schedules.”

Pier 33 provides boat sellers with a free-of-charge in-water display area, as well as on-shore, both inside the showroom and outdoors during the boat show. According to Curran, the show has been a big draw in recent years because of the timing: before the boats are tucked away for winter storage and while there’s still time to perform sea trials, survey and the other steps a buyer will require to complete a sale. “Many boat shoppers have spent the summer searching and want to make sure they’ve made their choice well ahead of the start of next year’s boating season.”

More information regarding the Pier 33 Yacht Brokerage and Pre-Owned Boat Show can be found at this link: click here.

Pier 33 is a full-service marina and boat dealership located in St. Joseph, Michigan. Pier 33 provides a complete range of boat repair, maintenance, storage and dock services, used boat sales and new boat sales for manufacturers Chaparral, Pursuit and Scout Boats.

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A Sea Change for the America’s Cup

The sportswriter Red Smith has been credited with remarking that the America’s Cup is about “as exciting as watching grass grow.” For most of the event’s 162-year history, racing took place far from shore and in heavy monohull boats that displaced lots of water and plodded around the courses at average speeds of around 10 miles per hour. But after winning the last cup in Valencia, Spain, in 2010, Larry Ellison, the billionaire software mogul and the owner of Oracle Team USA, pushed for changes to try to make things more exciting and spectator-friendly.

Because the cup’s charter — known as the Deed of Gift — permits the defender to choose the venue of the next competition, he was able to have it take place in San Francisco Bay, within sight of the shore, where organizers have put up grandstands. Ellison and his team also got the competition to accept a new boat design that features 131-foot-tall wing sails atop 72-foot-long hydroplaning catamarans. These yachts, called AC72s, now travel nearly four times as fast as the boats of old — and for sustained bursts they can move more than twice as fast as even the multihulls that competed in 2010. (Those craft didn’t hydrofoil.) John Rousmaniere, who writes about sailing and the history of the America’s Cup, describes them as “Indy cars without brakes.”

Getting spectators to embrace the souped-up sport has not been without challenges, however. Organizers were expecting as many as 12 teams to vie for the opportunity to take on Oracle Team USA in September, before racing began in July to determine the finalist. But the cost of an America’s Cup campaign — which can creep as high as $100 million for the expensive boats and more than three years of salaries for crew and support staff — deterred potential entrants, and only three challengers showed up. The poor turnout has both dampened the economic boost the host city was counting on and reduced the potential global TV audience.

There are doubts about the safety of the yachts themselves, too. Last October, one of Oracle’s boats capsized during training, and the wing sail broke into pieces. No one was hurt then, but in May, a 36-year-old British sailor and Olympic medalist named Andrew Simpson was killed when the yacht of the Swedish team Artemis Racing capsized and broke up during training, trapping the crewman under water. While Simpson’s death is not the first for an America’s Cup sailor — two crewmen were killed in separate training events in 1903, and two more while training in 1935 and 1999 — the incident prompted a slight reduction in the upper wind speed limit for races. “These boats are immensely powerful,” Rousmaniere says, referring to the AC72s. “It’s an entirely different kind of boat — a whole new realm.”

When the photographer Mike Escamilla showed up in July to take pictures aboard one of Oracle’s two racing yachts, he had little appreciation for the speed or danger of the AC72. Escamilla, a Los Angeles-based professional stuntman and BMX rider, has also made a name for himself online with his videos and photographs of extreme sports. But he knew next to nothing about the America’s Cup. “I thought I was going to jump on some sailboats that were kind of fast and shoot some photos,” he says.

The first sign that the experience might not be so routine came when Escamilla checked in at headquarters on Pier 80 in San Francisco. He was given a dry suit, a life preserver, a harness and a helmet, as well as a knife and an air canister, to help him survive in case he got trapped underwater in a capsize.

Escamilla was lucky to get onboard at all. After Simpson’s death, it was decided that the extra spot onboard — traditionally reserved for sponsors, dignitaries and members of the news media — would no longer be available during racing. The boats, the thinking goes, are too dangerous for all but seasoned crews. Oracle agreed to allow Escamilla onboard for what turned out to be 45 minutes on a practice run. He took most of his pictures on small and light GoPro digital cameras, often affixed to parts of the boat or a small telescoping pole, to help him get shots above the spray and the scrum of the 11-man crew jumping back and forth across the trampoline between the boat’s hulls.

The restrictions seemed a bit much to Escamilla, who once back-flipped his BMX bike over the rotating blades of a helicopter for a show on MTV. But as soon the yacht lifted out of the water on its hydrofoils, Escamilla says, he began to understand. The ride became eerily smooth as the hulls left the surface, the crew scrambling about all the while to keep what amounted to an awkwardly shaped airplane from going nose first into the sea. On these downwind runs, Escamilla was asked to stow his pole — the risk of it flying away and hitting someone was too great, he was told, and besides, he needed to hang on.

“I’ve been in a lot of situations, and I don’t really get scared — I get concerned,” Escamilla says. “When we got moving, I spent a lot of time looking at people’s faces to see how things were going, and there were times when I was very concerned.”

After just 25 minutes, Escamilla says, he was spent. The sailors themselves were just getting started on a practice session that would last hours, in preparation for an event that could consist of as many as 17 races in early September. When he debarked Oracle’s yacht by way of a support boat, Escamilla says, he did so with a certainty that for better or worse, the America’s Cup is now extreme.

“Of all the things I’ve ever done in my life,” he says, “this was one of gnarliest.”

Mike Escamilla is a photographer, video director and stuntman based in Los Angeles.

Warren St. John is a former reporter for The New York Times and the author, most recently of “Outcasts United,” the story of a refugee soccer team. 


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Marblehead Race Week wraps up: Shumway finishes first overall, Cressy retiring on top

The 124th running of the Sperry Top-Sider NOOD Regatta at Marblehead Race Week featured solid performances by many local and area sailors who competed over three days, in 11 fleets totaling nearly 160 boats on the water.

Local sailing legend Norman Cressy, 75, who competed in his 65th consecutive Race Week this year, wrapped it up in first place, while sailing with fellow Marbleheader Bruce Dyson aboard Gypsy in the IOD fleet.

“I have been racing with Bruce Dyson for about 10 years now, and we really enjoy it,” said the former sailmaker. “My first Marblehead Race Week was when I was about 10 years old, and everyone in my family was into racing. The biggest number of boats we ever had at Race Week was in the late 1940s — 1947 or 1948 — with 550 boats,” Cressy said.

“We will likely never see those days again, but the event is still going strong. For me, I feel that this is it. I am retiring. I was able to make my living as a sailmaker for many years, and also getting out and racing in my home waters for all those years. Being around sailboats and a lot of wonderful people is what it is all about. It is a wonderful group of people you meet in sailing.”

As the event is over a century old, long running traditions at Marblehead Race Week include the awarding of the two highly distinguished trophies. The Norm Cressy Award is one that’s presented to the person who best exemplifies outstanding performance, competitiveness, sportsmanship and sailing smarts. This year’s honor went to Skipper Ben Richardson of Gloucester, who sailed Tern Too to victory in the 32-boat Rhodes 19 class.

Equally revered is the Leonard Munn Fowle Award, and it represents the spirit of giving back and contributing to the advancement of sailing in Marblehead. The 2013 recipient went to Marblehead’s Russ Chapman for his relentless efforts in helping produce this year’s Marblehead Race Week.

Marblehead-based skippers also had strong showings in other classes at the NOODs, including the Viper 640, Etchells, J/70s, Town Class and the J/105s. Local winners included Tomas Hornos (International Etchells, Destiny) and Bob Slattery (J/105, Ghost), while many other locals finished in the top five.

In all of the fleets, local competitors were at the top of their game, including Marblehead sailing legend Jud Smith in the popular J70 fleet. Smith placed second overall.

“The J/70 is a brand new fleet in Marblehead. It is popular because it is a fast, sport boat, but I can also sail with my wife and family. We had great competition out there, and the fleet is just getting going here.”

The emerging J/70 fleet also featured a fourth place finish by Marblehead’s own Tyler Doyle and a visiting Minneapolis boat, owned by Joel Ronning, that featured as crew one of the rising stars in US sailing today — Taylor Canfield, 24, of the US Virgin Islands. Canfield is a World Match Racing Tour competitor, who last year won the King Edward VII Gold Cup and the Monsoon Cup as the youngest team to win both coveted events. He was formerly captain of the Boston College sailing team, and after graduating two years ago was recruited to run the Chicago Match Racing Center.

“I have never been to Marblehead Race Week, and it is great to be here. I feel like it’s like being home, having sailed so much in Boston and this area while in college. It is a great event, and doing a fleet race is really good as it is about going fast and making the tactical moves.”

The J/70s has also drawn a lot of longtime competitors back to sailing, including Marblehead resident John Fisher.

“I have been out of sailing since 2007, so it is great to be back. Things have changed, we have gotten older, but sailing is like a magnet, and it is great to all be together with other sailors,” he said. “I have a smaller boat and my core crew, but it was a great way to return to racing.”

Berit Solstad, formerly of Marblehead, sailed into first place in the Town Class for her first-ever overall win at Marblehead Race Week aboard her Townie “Lille Venn.”

Solstad competed in the Town Class with her mother for many years, but is now skipper of the boat.

“We did put a lot of work into the boat over the winter, and we upgraded,” she said with the help of her boyfriend whom she met six years ago at Race Week. “We used to use sails that were about 35 years old, but we replaced them with sails that are 25-years old. I think that made a big difference!” The Town Class is indigenous to Marblehead, and remains a popular, small-boat classic here.”

First place in the Viper 640 class went to Jeff Slocum of Boxford, whose son, Doug, lives in Marblehead.

“We had some challenging days with different conditions, but the Viper is a great boat. Ideally, we like flat seas and high winds to really make them get up and go, but we feel great about the overall results.”

In the J/24 fleet, some very close racing occurred, with Marblehead’s Mike Taber finishing second with 17 points, while the overall winner John Denman of Beverly took it with nine points, plus an amazing seven first place finishes out of 10 races.

Wrapping up a spectacular weekend of racing at the Sperry Top-Sider NOOD Regatta, Skipper Skip Shumway of Rochester, N.Y. received the coveted Overall Winner honor at the last stop of the season in the country’s largest regatta series.

Shumway and the crew aboard Beat Dawn S reacted soundly to wind shifts and varying conditions throughout three days of racing to cruise to victory in the Sonar class, the race’s most competitive class.

The class provided neck-and-neck competition throughout the event, with Shumway and Marblehead skipper Larry Ehrhardt aboard Rallie engaging in a three-day struggle for the lead.

As overall winner in Marblehead, Shumway will receive an invitation to participate in the Sperry Top-Sider NOOD Championship Regatta in the British Virgin Islands to compete aboard Sunsail 44s against the other overall winners in the 2013 series.

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