Stew Sill Jr. as I remember it… part VII by Bill VanGee

Sills Marina was always pretty laid back, more of a down east boat yard than marina. Everything wasn’t necessarily all shiny and new, but there was seldom a vacancy and the customer waiting list was substantial. When you entered the store, you pretty much felt at home, almost like family. The coffee pot was always on and in the front corner of the store was an old wood stove surrounded with chairs. It was here that the daily paper was read and the latest stories were told. The customers and employees alike were all charters unto themselves. I’m pretty sure Stew wouldn’t have had it any other way. The employees, for the most part, all seem to have nick names. In a couple of cases I’m not sure of what their real names were. We had Buck, and Brownie, and Peach and Frenchy (he actually lived in a building on the fuel dock one season with an old piano). There was Hammer and Stillman and MJ (he lived in an old converted bread truck for a couple seasons) and Harold. We had Window and Walk N Talk and Lefty and Disco. Maud worked in the sail loft and an old guy named SmittyStew Sill Ice Racing was around nearly every day. I’ve probably missed a couple, but those of you that remember the old Sills Marina must surely remember some of those names. Many of the customers were trips unto themselves. We had one guy that wore a sailor’s hat and carried a child’s lunch box with his tools nearly all the time. Another had a large sailboat and insisted that it always be in the water by Memorial Day, but never showed up until July 4th. He also changed the name of his boat nearly every year to the name of his latest wife or girl friend. We usually had to change it on very short notice because his latest partner had never been to the boat previously. Another customer with a large power boat insisted that his boat stay in the water until Thanksgiving so that he could have dinner aboard. I could go on but I think you get where I’m going. Whatever their story or whatever their need, Stew did his best to accommodate everyone.

One fall haul out season, one customer in particular decided that he would get a jump on everyone else and told Stew that his boat needed to be in the water April 1. Stew wrote a work order and assured the customer that he would be in the water on the designated date in the spring. Winter came and went as it always does and the weather soon began to moderate as the days grew longer. Along came the last day of March and the customer wanting his boat in the water called to make sure that his wishes had been honored. Stew had kinda forgot about that launch work order and when he told him that the boat in fact hadn’t been launched, the customer went a little berserk and flew into a tirade about how he had ordered this work back in October and he expected his wishes to be carried out. This guy wasn’t taking no for an answer and didn’t want an explanation. He wanted his boat in the water. Stew having heard all he wanted, told him that the boat would be in by the next day and wished him good afternoon. When he hung up the phone, he related his conversation and told us to load the customer’s boat onto the yard trailer and to bring it to the crane for launch. Stew started the crane and picked up the boat and swung it out over the water in the first slip on the fuel pier (C1). With a couple of good up and down clunks of the boat’s keel, he was able to break the ice in the slip enough to set the boat in the water in the slip. You see, the customer hadn’t given Stew enough time to explain that the boat wasn’t in the water yet because the Bay was still frozen from winter. When the customer came to rig his boat the next morning, he found that his instructions had been followed and his boat was sitting in a perfectly formed hole in the ice. He never said a word and in the following seasons, never again demanded an early launch.

Bill VanGee