Boating Lake County Blog

Meet Cap­tain Gregg Pupec­ki — Waukegan Har­bor Gen­er­al Manager

The Crew
The New Waukegan Harbor Team

Cap­tain Gregg Pupec­ki has been around boats all his life: as a child grow­ing up on the New Eng­land coast; as a com­mer­cial boat cap­tain; and as an exec­u­tive with Chicago’s Wen­del­la Boats. And today, Gregg is still around boats…and then some.

As the new Gen­er­al Man­ag­er for Lake County’s Waukegan Har­bor, Gregg is respon­si­ble for day-to-day oper­a­tions and plan­ning for a har­bor with a mari­na that has over 1,000 boat-slips. Recent­ly, we talked with Gregg to learn more about him and his vision for grow­ing Waukegan Har­bor as a must-go-to” destination…

Q: What’s your vision for Waukegan Harbor?

A: My vision for Waukegan Har­bor is to solid­i­fy it as a must-go-to” des­ti­na­tion, both for peo­ple with boats all across the Great Lakes and for peo­ple with­out a boat. I want them to come down and be able to take a boat tour, hop on to a sun­set cruise, take a water taxi, have an ice cream and stroll the HarborWauk.

Q: What are some things you’d like to accom­plish in the near future?

A: One of the top things is to bring in a full-time food-and-bev­er­age oper­a­tor. Also, I want to cre­ate a way for the pub­lic to access the water and the excite­ment and fun that the water brings. Right now, if you don’t have a boat, there’s real­ly no way to real­ly expe­ri­ence the water here. You don’t have things like kayak rentals — which I’m look­ing at get­ting — or Ski-Doo or Waverun­ner rentals. You can hire a char­ter fish­ing boat to take you out fish­ing. But it’s lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent than hav­ing a tour boat or water taxi type of service.

Q: Could you tell us a lit­tle about your back­ground and what attract­ed you to Waukegan Harbor.

A: I was born in Mass­a­chu­setts, and I grew up around boats all my life. We had a sec­ond home in Ken­neb­unkport, Maine, and our boat was in the same mari­na in the 1980’s where then-Vice Pres­i­dent George Bush docked his boat.

After study­ing busi­ness and mar­ket­ing at New Hamp­shire Col­lege, I was work­ing for NBC news in Chica­go in 1996 when I dis­cov­ered the Wen­del­la Sight­see­ing Boats com­pa­ny. That’s where I start­ed my pro­fes­sion­al career. I stud­ied at New Eng­land Mar­itime, got my captain’s license and ran a boat for sev­er­al years. And that’s how I got into the paid side of the boat­ing business.

When the oppor­tu­ni­ty came up in Waukegan, I said to myself, Well, this ties every­thing togeth­er: my com­mer­cial side, my marketing/​sales side, my boat­ing side. It seemed to be a per­fect fit.”

Q: Can you describe briefly what your job in Waukegan Har­bor entails?

A: As gen­er­al man­ag­er, I’m respon­si­ble for the day-to-day oper­a­tions, as well as over­see­ing imple­men­ta­tion of future goals and projects. I work with dif­fer­ent groups to devel­op a vision for the har­bor. I’m also respon­si­ble for cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion, ser­vices, sales and mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ty out­reach. I help make sure that Waukegan Har­bor is and will con­tin­ue to be part of the com­mu­ni­ty and a destination.

Q: What would be the num­ber one thing you’d like the pub­lic to know about Waukegan Harbor?

A: Waukegan Har­bor is cur­rent­ly a great place to come down to take a stroll, grab an ice cream from Dock­side Ice Cream, check out the mari­na, or expe­ri­ence music at The Harbor’s Edge — and that’s just what’s cur­rent­ly going on now, which many peo­ple don’t realize.

Obvi­ous­ly, it’s a great place to keep your boat. And between live enter­tain­ment and ameni­ties plus the full-ser­vice mari­na, it’s a great place to be. And in the future, it’s going to get even more exciting.

Q: How much sup­port are you get­ting from the city for Har­bor­Wauk and oth­er initiatives?

A: I have a real­ly good work­ing rela­tion­ship with the city and mayor’s office. We all under­stand how devel­op­ment along the har­bor is great for the whole com­mu­ni­ty. The city has just fin­ished the Grand Avenue entrance to the har­bor. There’s a bike path, great side­walks and light­ing. That makes a huge difference.

And then we have the Bay Marine project — with a yacht sales, ser­vice and stor­age facil­i­ty — that’s going to be built here. There will be a lift well to get good-sized boats out of the water and also indoor heat­ed storage.

Q: Do you own any water­crafts your­self right now?

A: That’s actu­al­ly one thing I’m feel­ing with­drawals on, because it’s tor­ture to be at a mari­na with­out a boat. As a cap­tain, I’ve been used to dri­ving oth­er people’s boats. But I’m actu­al­ly look­ing for a small, cen­ter-con­sole boat.

For more infor­ma­tion about Waukegan Har­bor and things to do, vis­it http://​www​.waukegan​port​.com/​h​a​rbor/

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