Posts tagged ‘Swamp Yankees’

March 14, 2016

Old Salts

herreschoffMen who love the sea inevitably work their way up to a serious boat, and my father’s first was a Herreshoff.

Though I was only four, I still remember it, a 21-foot Islander with a narrow beam and beautiful lines. He bought it with his friend Chuck Russell and they kept it in the Weymouth Back River at the South Shore Yacht Club.  Built in the UK in 1953, it was designed by Sidney Herreshoff, son of Captain Nathanael Herreshoff, from Bristol, Rhode Island, who started building boats in 1878 with his brother.  They went on to design and build racing sloops that won five America’s Cups, and Nat Herreshoff (“the wizard of Bristol”) is considered on of the greatest boat designers of all time.

Our boat was named Queequeg, after the cannibal harpooner full of derring-do in MOBY DICK, and my father won a slew of races in her just 20 miles from New Bedford, where Queequeg became fast friends with a wandering sailor who wanted to be called Ishmael.

Once my mother had a fight on the boat with my father’s friend Chuck (a sort of know-it-all physicist who did have some credibility given that he’d worked on the Manhattan Project), and she got so steamed up that she drew an imaginary line down the center of the boat, told him the port side was hers, the starboard was his, and not to cross the line.  My father ended up hooting with laughing so hard that she cracked up laughing, too, and they all made up. They were like that.

Thirty two boats later, my parents decided once they hit their 70s to give up sailing.  My mother in particular was worried that my father might fall overboard and she wouldn’t be able to save him.  After she passed away at age 73, my father decided oh what the heck and at age 76 decided to get another boat.  He chose a Herreshoff 12 1/2, a honey of a boat that had been designed by Nat Herreshoff in 1914 for the afternoon chop of Buzzards Bay.  Late on a summer afternoon my father could be seen bringing Felicity up single-handedly to the mooring (for it had no motor) in Mattapoisett Harbor on Buzzards Bay, just as he’d done years ago as a young man.