Skippers Corner: Dock Swap - Sailors for the Sea

Skippers Corner: Dock Swap

 October 10, 2022  | By: Ben Stern

The Dock Swap rally boats sail by the picturesque Chicago skyline.

This past August, we held Chicago Corinthian Yacht Club’s inaugural Dock Swap event between Chicago and New Buffalo, Michigan. Part cruising rally, part race, the event took sailors over 40 nautical miles across the southern tip of Lake Michigan. 

Dock Swap was designed with two things in mind: To encourage day sailors to venture to ports outside their comfort zone, and to advocate for Green Boating on the Great Lakes. We realized there were many day-sailors out there that have always wanted to cross Lake Michigan but were apprehensive about going it alone. Secondly, a healthy Great Lakes is extremely important to our club. Dock Swap was the perfect platform to showcase Green Boating best practices, and we used the Sailors for the Sea’s Clean Regatta Toolkit when organizing our event.

The organizers wanted to keep the rally open to as many crews as possible, so the only requirement for participation was to offset at least one ton of carbon by donating to the Ocean Foundation’s Sea Grass Grow program. To do this, we had each vessel estimate their boat’s yearly carbon emissions, then donate to offset those emissions, essentially making their vessel carbon neutral for the year.

 Prior to the event, we organized the overnight slips at our destination, provided thorough harbor information, organized docking assistance, and planned dinner at our host yacht club. We held weather and safety briefings to make sure the entire group felt confident and safe.

Participants earned time for each piece of debris they pulled out of the water.

While Dock Swap is really a cruising rally, we wanted to add a competitive element. We decided to make it more of a cruising race. Each boat was assigned a handicap based on water length. A staggered start time was implemented to keep the fleet together for safety reasons and motoring was allowed. At the conclusion of the race we deducted five minutes from each vessel’s elapsed time for each piece of marine debris pulled from the lake. 

 We had awards for fastest adjusted time, most marine debris collected, and for most time sailing without the engine. We had amazing prizes donated for our winners including Pettit’s Ultima Eco copper-free bottom paint, dock lines from Better Boat, and a sail bag made of excess sail material from UK Sails Chicago. Also, Sailors for the Sea made sure every crew member was equipped with a reusable straw. 

This duffel, made from used sails, was one of the prizes.

The winds were light during the race, which made the marine debris element of the event that much more important. It soon became clear that it wouldn’t be the fastest boat that was going to win the event. It was so great to see boats racing each other to be the first to pluck out a Mylar balloon. All in all, we picked up over 30 pieces of marine debris from the lake.

In all the event was a huge success, and the participating sailors were proud of their accomplishment. We were able to rekindle our club’s cruising fleet and are planning more Green Boating events for next season. Most importantly these sailors got to see firsthand the amount of debris out there and learned a few ways we can be better stewards of our Great Lakes.

Green Boater spirit!