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Seven Seas Moves

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Sailing into uncertainty
Hammond Yacht Club and sailing fleet prepare to leave marina


The mood was reflective, and a little melancholy, as members of the Hammond Yacht Club's sailing fleet got together Saturday morning for a final race before leaving the Hammond Marina.
The 900 boats currently docked at the marina must find a new home until at least May 2008 to make way for expansion of the Horseshoe Casino.

The race was a chance to say good-bye, not only to each other, but to their charter member Pete Duerr, who last month succumbed to ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, after a year-long battle.

"Pete started the sailing fleet club in 1991, when the marina started up," said Pat Reynolds, the owner of the Karizmaddie and is the current sail fleet captain. "Pete organized our Wednesday night races, our Spring dinners and also coordinated races with other yacht clubs."

The sail fleet club conducted races each Wednesday during the season at the Hammond Marina. The number of boats entered in the race each week varied between 15-22. Some were smaller, 20-foot boats, while others were as long as 50 feet. Determination and skill, not size, usually decided the winner.

"The races provided us an opportunity to get together and compete locally," said Maureen Foos, owner of the boat Cool Heads Prevail.

"Many of the people you see here today have been here for 10-15 years," she said. "These races helped to build a community spirit among us, and it's sad to be losing that."

Although the Hammond Port Authority has stated the marina will re-open in the Spring of 2008, many members of the sail fleet aren't sure if they will return.

"It's hard to say at this time," said Mike Sanders, owner of Tenacious II.

"We don't have any information. How many slips will be available, will there be a limit on boat size, things like that," he said. "There are no details for us to base our decision on."

Many of the boaters have already left. Some have found new homes in Michigan marinas, and a few at the Michigan City Marina. Others, including most on hand Saturday, are still unsure of their future. But on this bright and breezy Saturday morning, several members got together to have a final race in honor of the man they refer to as "the founding father" of the sail fleet.

The race entry fees, as well as all the money left in the sail fleet coffers, will be donated to the ALS Foundation at the end of the month.

Duerr's widow, Madalyn, joined Foos' crew for the race, and Reynolds presented her with three flags to commemorate her late husband.

"It's hard to express how much our family appreciates this gesture," she said, referring to the race as well as the donation to fight ALS. "Pete was a humble man, and he'd blush right now if he could. But I think inside he'd be happy."

Reprinted with permission from NW Indiana Times.

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