Sailing with Families

As the summer winds down and thoughts return to school, the number of families who go sailing dwindles. I’ve had all variety of families on board this season, everything from toddlers to grown adults. Parents like to take individual children up to the bow to enjoy some private time. Sailing is quite the bonding experience for families. That said, I kid people that the two things that are bad for the boat are red wine and a ten-year-old boy because they both stain.

Kids are understandably rambunctious. Sometimes young girls get to whining and young boys get to testing what they can break. And there’s the mopey teenager who’s mortified to be seen with their parents.

Every now and then occurs a notable exception. The Wisman family of Independence, West Virginia, brought their young son Jacob and young daughter Jessica to sail the York. They were well behaved and had a good time, but there was something else.

Sailing with FamiliesI saw in Jacob’s serene face an intensity that suggested great concentration. While some kids fidget in the catbird seat to see if they squirm into the water from that height, Jacob sat there taking in the scene and the scenery with genuine observation. I told his parents how poised he was. When his dad David put him on the wheel, Jacob held it at the ten-and-two points like driving a car. I gave him a heading to the Vepco smokestack, and he held it for nearly a mile. He was totally engaged and focused. I asked him his favorite subject was in school, and he replied firmly, “Math.” Jacob is ten.

Sailing with Families

Boating Memories

Amy and James Ellis were on their second vacation in Williamsburg this summer with their children. Sailing along the York brought back all manner of memories for James.

I pointed out a 1930s Chris Craft docked at the marina. “My grandfather had a boat like that. It’s a good story. He caught a sailfish offshore while on a fishing trip and had it mounted. He and my grandmother lived in Haddonfield, New Jersey. She announced, ‘That fish isn’t going to hang in my house.’ So he built a house in Ocean City and kept the boat there for fishing trips. During World War II the Navy took it and used it for patrols. Years later we found boat in Florida. It was a wreck but it was still floating.”

His dad was apparently a chip off the old block. “My dad sailed a 42-foot Whitby in the upper Chesapeake Bay. It was a ketch with two masts. He could handle it alone and sail it to the Bahamas. I’d climb the rat line and jump off at the spreaders. He tried to get me to go up to the top of the mast in a bosun chair, but I wouldn’t do it. Sometimes when he flew the asymmetrical spinnaker, I’d jump off the bow into the sail and swing it. The lines came all the way back to the cockpit, so it was a big asymmetrical.

Finding Crabs in the Water

“I really enjoyed sailing with him. I’d sit up on the bow and put a net out to catch crabs as we sailed along. My dad didn’t stop for anything, so I caught a lot of crabs.” As it happened, we could see crabs in the York River. Jim eagerly pointed them out to the children. “If only we had a net.”

“He sailed that boat until he was 75. His wife fell on board and broke her hip, so he said ‘That’s it’ and gave it up for her. We tried to get him interested in getting a smaller boat, but that didn’t work. I think when he sold that boat a big chunk of his heart died. He died a year later.”

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