By Hugh M. Carola
If you want to meet someone with a New Jersey accent, forget
The Sopranos and all their “tawkin.’” Just spend a few moments talking with
George Lees, one of the owners here at Floraine Marina in Lake Hopatcong and
you’ll hear a real Jersey accent. Chances are however, that a “few moments”
will turn into much more once “Chick” – as his friends know him – begins to
share with you some of the knowledge and wisdom he’s collected over the years.
Chick is the kind of person you don’t meet very often these
days. He’s a crackerjack boat handler, mechanic and jack-of-all-trades. He’s a
man with a quick smile and an even quicker wit. He keeps Floraine running like
a well-oiled machine and whenever he and our staff get together, it’s fun just
to “watch and learn” (one of Chick’s favorite phrases) from him.
We see Chick each November when he comes down “off the
mountain” with his 35-foot trailer to haul the Boyle and the Abbey for the
season. Once back at Floraine, his crew
winterizes the engines and stores the boats on blocks until sometime in April
when all of us (plus as many volunteers as we can entice with promises of good
food and beer) arrive at Floraine to scrape off last season’s barnacles, slap
on this year’s anti-fouling paint and swab the decks. Within a week or two
after that ordeal, Chick brings the boats to Secaucus and the new season
George "Chick" Lees, one of the owners at Floraine Marina in Lake Hopatcong, is a crackerjack boat handler, mechanic and jack-of-all-trades. And he's a terrific supporter of Hackensack Riverkeeper!
You may be wondering how we hooked up with Chick and
Floraine since Lake Hopatcong is nowhere near the Hackensack River. It began in
1998 when Capt. Bill acquired the Robert H. Boyle from Godfrey Marine, Inc. At
that time, Godfrey required the boat to be delivered to a dealer rather than to
an individual and the closest dealer was Bridge Marine in Lake Hopatcong.
Bridge did a fine job of prepping the boat but when Capt. Bill asked about
getting it to the Hackensack, the answer was, “We don’t have a trailer big
enough but Chick Lees does.” And the rest, as they say, is history.
Left: Each April, Hackensack Riverkeeper's staff and volunteers scrape and paint the hulls of our two pontoon boats that winter at Floraine Marina in Lake Hopatcong.