Away all boats!

GLADSTONE – It’s a laborious, yet fascinating task that takes place each fall in Gladstone and will be repeated in reverse in the spring. The lifting of a dozen or more sailing vessels out of the Gladstone Harbor one after the other prior to being towed away on the back of trailers is the work of Roy Ness Contracting of Escanaba.

According to boat owner, Tim LeGault, between 10 to 15 fellow sailors get together at the end of the sailing season each year and utilize the services of the Escanaba company in a day predetermined by the contractor and then split the cost.

“We can’t take our boats out with our own trailers so we have Ness do it,” LeGault said. “Then we get a single bill and divide it between us. This year we had 11 of us. It’s a great way to do it because we all help each other.”

The added cost to boat owners who elect to remove their own boats is considerable.

LeGault said he has been docking his boat at the Gladstone harbor for about 14 years and this process has been going on long before his arrival.

“I believe it started years ago with Mel Gabrielson (a long-time Gladstone sailor now deceased),” LeGault explained. “Mel used to be in charge of organizing the guys and Roy Ness Contracting to put the sail boats into the water every spring and to take them out of the water every fall.”

Gabrielson handed over the job of coordinator) to LeGault approximately 10 years ago. “However,” LeGault joked, “Mel was always around to supervise and give advice and to tell a few jokes.”

Among the vessels lifted out on the designed day was the 45-foot catamaran, “Cathexis,” that took Irving DeRoeck seven years to build himself. It was first launched on Oct. 2, 1992. Because of the greater time required to lift “Cathexis” out of the harbor in comparison to a typical sailboat, DeRoeck’s portion of the bill is higher than the other sailors.

It was DeRoeck who drew up the plans almost 40 years ago and had students at Bay de Noc Community College construct the gin pole on the northwest corner of the harbor that the sailboat owners use to take the masts off their boats before a Ness Contracting crane operator lifts the sailboats out of the water.