The majestic Abegweit floats peacefully on Lake Michigan between DuSable and Monroe Harbors, where she has been permanently docked since 1983. The former icebreaker was named after the Mi’kmaq word for Prince Edward Island meaning “cradled on the waves.” The Abegweit originally served as a transport for trains and cars on the east coast of Canada between Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick for nearly 40 years. Today, she has a new role: home of the Columbia Yacht Club.
The club’s entrance leads directly into the ship’s cargo hold, which used to store train cars until it was repurposed for the club’s sailing program. The second level was once a car deck but now accommodates outdoor dining and event space. The rest of the ship showcases pristine American chestnut walls and doors and brass fixtures, which are polished daily.
Columbia Yacht Club General Manager Nick Philip describes the club as having a “neighborhood-joint feel near great buildings.” It’s a place to read or drink a beer, with a stunning view of the entire skyline. It’s almost as if you are on a floating island. According to Philip, the club is widely known for philanthropy. They host 56 fundraising events a year, several of which support the Leukemia Cup Regatta Series.
Besides abundant invitations to club events, member benefits also include access to the ship at all times, dining privileges, and use of the club’s meeting rooms and party facilities. And you don’t need to own a boat to join. Non-members can rent boats and stand-up paddleboards and participate in the club’s sailing school programs, most of which start in May and go through November.
“We want to make sailing accessible to the neighborhood,” Philip explains.
Kids as young as five can enroll in the “Shark Bait” summer camp program, which Philip says is the perfect way for kids to “get their toes wet” and build confidence on the water while having fun.
Older kids have the chance to learn racing techniques and can join the premiere racing team to compete at local, regional and national events.
Adults can participate in the Skipjacks Program, which Philip says is their most notable program. There are also several boating certification opportunities. More information including scheduling, pricing and registration visit www.columbiayachtclub.org.
— Angela Gagnon, Staff Writer