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Sharing the value of the GLCC is their goal

Authored by Cindy Badley
April 3, 2024

Current Boat: SV Azure Mer, 49’ Jeanneau Sun Odyssey

Home Port: Duncan Bay, Mich. (H-74.5)

Joined GLCC: 1997

Joined GLCC Board: 2022

Title: Vice Commodore & Port Captain for Sarnia, Ont. and Port Edward, Ont.

  • Lifeline: What is your occupation?

     Joe McKeown: My professional career has been in global marketing and partnerships, with an emphasis on events and sports marketing for some of the biggest corporations. I’ve traveled the world as part of my career and currently run an event marketing agency consulting to the events and sports marketing industries. As of this writing, I’m on the road running customer hospitality for the NCAA Final Four tournament and working on finalizing plans for the upcoming Formula One race in Miami in early May. My wife, Karen, runs product marketing for an education software company.

  • How did you get into boating?

     My interest in boating started at a young age at my family’s “cottage” along the Detroit River in Amherstburg, Ont.  My first “boat” was an orange Sportyak dinghy that I used to row in front of the cottage while safely tethered to the dock.(Lifeline note: There’s an interesting parallel here. Director Amy Babinchak also noted in last month’s Lifeline that she started her sailing in a Sportyak – seems there is a GLCC trend here).

     From there I progressed to a small powerboat on the river. My career took me to Annapolis, where my interest moved from power to sail, and I moved to a Niagara 35 sailboat that we used to explore Chesapeake Bay and eastern US.  We bought Azure Mer, our current 49’ Jeanneau Sun Odyssey sailboat, after that and settled back into Great Lakes sailing. 

     One of the things that we have enjoyed onboard Azure Mer has been the time together with our family. Our two children, Meredith and James, grew up with us on the boat and our then annual trips to the North Channel. 

     Our boat has carried my family safely across most of the Great Lakes and our time together onboard is irreplaceable. There have been a few overnight lake crossings I would have preferred doing with better weather,  including those late-August crossings to get the kids back in time for the first day of school.

  • You joined GLCC in 1997 as a Legacy. What’s the story behind that?

     I was introduced to the GLCC by my parents and my aunt and uncle, Milt and Val-le Fuehrer, all GLCC members, after we returned to Michigan in 1977. As we began to cruise the Great Lakes, we fondly remembered the winter nights spent with them updating the paper logbook binder files and decided we needed the logbooks and cruising guides for ourselves. 

     Since that day, we’ve used the Harbor Reports extensively and have been proud to fly our burgee, always finding a warm welcome from other GLCC members, whether at anchor or harbor.

  • You are Port Captain for both Point Edward (H-2) and Sarnia (D-3), Ontario. Why did you choose to be a Port Captain?

     I remember being weathered in at a remote port and needing to get a family member off the boat to an airport to catch a flight. Numerous calls to car rental options, even the local U-Haul to rent a truck resulted in a dead end. My last call, which is where I should have started, was a call to the GLCC Port Captain to see if they knew of any local transportation options to get to the airport.  

     Turns out they did one better: They loaned us their car to run across the state to the airport. That’s the true value and spirit of service by a GLCC member. That’s when I decided I wanted to help others and became a Port Captain, first for Sarnia and then also for the nearby Port Edward, just up the river from where I first started boating.

  • What are the top 3 biggest benefits from your GLCC membership? 

     If I had to pick the top three, it would be the friends we have made, the knowledge we have gained from the comprehensive harbor reports, and the great courses offered by the GLCCSchool, particularly now that they are included as part of the membership. By the way, that’s in no particular order.

  • Have you attended any Rendezvous?

     We haven’t yet attended a whole lot of Rendezvous, but now that we are empty nesters, we look forward to attending more. We’re particularly looking forward to the 2025 Rendezvous in Little Current, Ont. (NC-17). The North Channel is one of our favorite cruising areas, where we typically spend 3-4 weeks each summer. Both my wife and I still work, but with the addition of Starlink to the boat, along with our cellular data capabilities, we hope to expand our cruising time.

  • What keeps you occupied in the winter?

     Both our children now live in Fort Collins, CO. We split our winters between our home in Ann Arbor, Mich., and visiting the kids where we enjoy winter skiing and hiking with them in the Colorado Rockies.

Other perspectives you would like to share?

     Over time, I’ve tried to contribute where I can to the club and do the best I can to apply what I have learned over my professional career.  We are a volunteer leadership team, but like everyone, I care about the GLCC and want to focus on growing the membership and continuing to provide member benefits.

     The GLCC has been of value to my family’s time on the Great Lakes. I want to make sure we grow and evolve as a club as boating and cruising on the Great Lakes evolves.

     I encourage all GLCC members to utilize all the benefits GLCC membership offers and become involved. The more active you are in the club (i.e., attending one of the many Rendezvous or rallies, taking a free webinar from the GLCCSchool, calling a Port Captain for information on a harbor you are interested in, etc.), the more you will get out your membership and, most importantly, the more like-minded cruisers you will meet.