Kenny Chesney fans moor boats along the Allegheny River ahead of the concert

Country music star Kenny Chesney is a boater. His song “Guys Named Captain” begins: “Guys Named Captain are always characters…Living by the water, somewhere in South or Central America or on a Virgin Island. »

Or Pittsburgh?

For three weeks, boaters have been anchored along the Allegheny River on Pittsburgh’s north shore — about two and three deep — awaiting the Chesney concert at 5 p.m. Saturday at Heinz Field.

And they don’t just park the boats to save space – they practically live off it before the big event. Ships feature many of the comforts of home: comfy beds, bathrooms, kitchens, and big-screen TVs.

Many “captains” become friends.

“Kenny is a great boater,” Joe Quealy, 53, of Latrobe said Wednesday afternoon. “There were times when he came here. He even sang on one of the boats. I don’t think he will this year because of covid.

Quealy said he brought his boat Four Winns from the dock in the Strip District on May 20. He stays for a few days, then a friend or two go down with their boat to save space, and they alternate so no one stays for three weeks. He will be there until the concert since he took off from work on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Quealy said Chesney owns a yacht and the song “Guys Named Captain” refers to boaters who sit along the dock, about 200 of whom will be lined up in the water by the time he takes the stage.

There have been concerns at past Chesney gigs about mountains of trash being left behind by spectators, but that’s not an issue with the boating community, said Drew Hill, 32, of Plum. He said they don’t leave a mess for the city to clean up.

“We are respectful,” said Hill, who has been anchored along the Allegheny River for nearly a week. He’s a traveling cardiovascular intensive care nurse, so he’s scheduled his next assignment for July.

A few of the boats had to move closer to PNC Park for two days to make room for the steamboat American Countess, part of the American Queen Steamboat Co., which was in Pittsburgh Monday through Tuesday night.

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop | Tribune-Review

Plum’s Drew Hill poses for a photo on his boat which sits along the Allegheny River near Heinz Field on Pittsburgh’s North Shore on June 8. He’s been there for almost a week, waiting for Kenny Chesney’s concert on June 11.

Hill, who keeps his boat at the Sharpsburg Islands Marina, said they arrived a few days before the concert due to the festive atmosphere.

“It’s a holiday in Pittsburgh when Kenny Chesney comes to town,” Hill said. “Country music fans love being part of this atmosphere.”

During the week they listen to all genres of music and bands often come by and perform. Most boats are outfitted for his 35-foot Carver Flybridge, which he calls a little flat on the water. It can accommodate six people and has a kitchen and a bathroom with shower. It has a generator and the fridge is battery operated.

He named it “Can’t Be Shore”.

If he can cook in his kitchen, he prefers to grill on the terrace. He said each boater takes a turn preparing breakfast, lunch or dinner for the other boaters. They also frequent some of the restaurants on the North Shore.

“We all take care of each other,” he said. “Some will go to the concert, and some will just enjoy being here with everyone. There’s nothing quite like that experience of partying on the water with fellow boaters.

The area where the boats are is public, so they can go there for free. Most will stay until Sunday.

“We’ve missed it for the last two years because of covid, so by Friday there will be over 100 boats here,” Hill said.

Justin Turk, 37, from North Huntingdon, has had tickets for two years. He was in a location near Heinz Field from Friday to Sunday and moved closer to PNC Park to make room for the American Countess.

“That big boat hadn’t even turned around and I was back in my original spot,” said Turk, who is self-employed.

He traveled from the Greene Cove Yacht Club in Greene County, where he keeps the boat. He said the Chesney concert is one of the biggest boating events in town, adding that it’s a big party but it’s under control.

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JoAnne Klimovich Harrop | Tribune-Review

Justin Turk of North Huntingdon poses for a photo on his boat which sits along the Allegheny River near Heinz Field on Pittsburgh’s North Shore on June 8. He’s been there for almost a week, waiting for Kenny Chesney’s concert on June 11.

Turk owns a 40-foot Silverton convertible. He didn’t know Hill until he docked his boat near him. Now they are friends.

“We’ve been heeling for the gig before, but boating is different,” Turk said. “Pittsburgh is a beautiful city, and you can’t see on land what you can see from your boat. The sunset reflecting off the water is breathtaking. There’s a special bond between boaters — you can’t get that atmosphere anywhere else.

Chesney’s tour has been postponed for the past two years due to the pandemic. The “Hear and Now” tour kicked off April 23 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Tickets are still available starting at $35.

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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