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Frankfort couple take part in boat launch day at Hammond Marina

Matt Traci Cunningham Frankfort Ill. stnear their boas it heads toward launch areHammond Marina.  |  Sue Ellen Ross~For

Matt and Traci Cunningham, of Frankfort, Ill., stand near their boat as it heads toward the launch area at the Hammond Marina. | Sue Ellen Ross~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 3, 2014 6:27AM



Matt and Traci Cunningham bought their first sailboat last summer in Michigan.

The Frankfort couple decided to make it a vacation, as they traveled across Lake Michigan, stopping at various harbors on the way down before docking their new purchase in the Hammond Marina.

This year, the Cunninghams had to travel only a short distance from the marina parking lot to the launch pad, since they stored the sailboat on the premises at the marina.

“We’re both new at this (boating experience). We have a lot to learn,” Matt Cunningham said, as he watched his boat lowered into the water. “But it’s exciting, and this was a good investment for us.”

Dozens of other boaters participated in the recent traditional three-day Spring Launch at the marina, some hauling their boats with their sport utility vehicles, and for the stored bigger boats, a semi was available in the parking lot.

Terry Guthrie, of Merrillville, and his son-in-law Mitch Ruthkay, of Hebron, were two of the first boaters in line to fill their marina slip.

After towing their 22-foot sailboat from Guthrie’s back yard that morning, there were a few last-minute preparations to be done.

“I’ve been at this marina since it was new; it’s a great place to be,” Guthrie said as he checked his ropes and other supplies. “But I don’t store my boat here during the offseason — it’s more convenient to have it at home (in my yard) so I can work on it. It’s an older one, so there’s always something that needs to be done.”

New this year at the Hammond Marina is a large recycle bin offered by Lake County Solid Waste, according to Hammond Port Authority Harbormaster Keith Carey, who organized the annual boat launch.

The dumpster is utilized to hold used white “shrink-wrap,” a poly-film material chosen by some owners to cover their boats while in storage. The option to use this wrapper is the responsibility of the boat owner — they contact a company to apply it. The marina does not offer this service.

Andy Yonovich, of Munster, first became interested in boating through his brother-in-law, who taught him the basics. He and his wife Liz soon found themselves with more than just a new 38-foot sailboat that sleeps seven.

“Sailing is not just a hobby — it’s a passion,” Andy said as he did some last-minute cleaning before his time at the boat launch. “You’re powered by nature — by the wind.”

The majority of the boats secured in the marina parking lot during the winter months are of the sailboat variety, with engine-powered boats alongside them. The reasons for this are numerous — secure location, lack of space at home, the boats are large, it’s convenient to launch, not having to deal with coming in up the river (thus having to go through various locks, under bridges, etc.).

As with any choreographed event, for it to be successful, plans were needed to make it run smoothly, and timing is everything. So Carey mailed postcards to the boat owners, listing days and times to transfer their boats.

This year, the weather cooperated perfectly during launch days, with the sun brightly shining on Lake Michigan as the hub of activity at the Hammond Marina found many people excited to see spring finally arrive, at least temporarily.



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