Do you sometimes dream of spending a life touring the seven seas in a graceful, white-sailed boat, drifting from continent to continent utterly free of care?
Do you ever read those enticing advertisements in the yachting magazines offering boats for charter? Advertisements that extol the soundness of the hull, the competence of the crew and the perfection of the fittings? I read them. In fact, I have a boat that could be like that, and I have my dreams as well, and I keep hoping that the two will somehow get together. But they seldom do.
I have lived by the sea as long as I can remember. My family spent each summer in a house on the rock-strewn coast of Cohasset in Massachusetts Bay. I awoke each morning to the pounding surf of the Atlantic, and my first act each morning of my life was to look at the sea.
By the time I was 10 I desperately wanted a sailboat. My father, a quiet, prudent man, thought it best that I be taught thoroughly to sail before I was given a boat, and so I was packed off to Tabor Academy Camp for two summers. The Tabor Camp, in Marion, had tremendous facilities for teaching young boys the fundamentals of sailing. There was a fleet of small centerboard, Marconi-rigged sloops, called Zips, and 10 or 12 lovely Herreshoff-built gaff-rigged sloops, the E boats. We were assigned boats each morning and sent off into Marion harbor under the supervision of a counselor in a patrol launch.
On weekends a group of campers was sent off for a cruise on the huge schooner Tabor Boy, under command of Captain Curt Carlson. There we learned to make colors, chamois the brightwork, polish brass and scrub the decks.
We were given some instruction on racing tactics, but the main intent of the school was to provide a thorough grounding in seamanship. By my second summer I had earned my certificate as a Zip and E-boat skipper. In the spring of my 13th year my father gave me a new 110 class sloop, built by Haggerty in Cohasset.
As a competitor, I soon learned that the worlds of plain sailing and yacht racing are far apart. I was pitted against a group of young sailors who had been racing four or five years longer than I, and they cleaned my clock with discouraging regularity. I must have sorely tried the patience of the race committee as I struggled in, 10 or 15 minutes behind the pack. The club steward, a very kind man named Martin Grassie, took me under his wing, and I started to improve.
After each race in which I had gone off to some absurd corner of a windward leg Martin would patiently ask me why. He would listen to my somewhat lame explanations, and then, with simple sketches on the back of an envelope, he would show me why the others had fared better.
By the time I was 18 I didn't fit in the 110s anymore, having grown to over 6'3". I passed my 110 on to my brother Dick, and my father gave me a new 210 with the excuse that it was an achievement present for having stayed in Harvard for a year.