Opps! I sat down and wrote something a few days ago—and forgot to post it. I was writing about my sailing days with my father and my inability to pass on my love of the sea to any of our four children. Let me attempot to recapture.
Dad and I started cruising together in his first Nova Scotia schooner before WWII. He kept his boat in Wickford, RI which was about an hours drive from Moosup, Connecticut, where we lived. We sailed all over Narragansett Bay and Cape Cod. Sailing into Barnstable Harbor on the Cape was a bit of a challenge as his boat had a deep keel and drew six feet. This harbor was mostly sandbars at low tide so we had to pick our time carefully to go sailing on the Emily Morgan. "Emily Morgan" was the name of the schooner. It was also my mother's name and had come from my great great grandfather, Charles W. Morgan, who was once the owner of at least 21 whaling ships out of New Bedford, Massachusetts. One of his ships was the Charles W. Morgan—recently renovated by the Mystic Seaport—and a sister ship was called 'Emily Morgan.' Pat and I now have a granddaughter named Emily Morgan Haskell, who lives in Berkeley, CA.
Dad sold his schooner after WWII and was boatless for a few years; concentrating on his other interests—flying and motoring. Dad was an aeronautical engineer from MIT. He took flight training in WWI and had an important position in the U. S. Navy during the second world war—chief of the production of naval aircraft propellers.
In the late 1930s Dad had bought a small airport on the Connecticut-Rhode Island state line called RICONN. I learned much later that he had used some of my savings to actually buy this airport and when we sold it in 1967 dad gave me the proceeds. I spent lots of time flying with dad. He returned from the war and bought a Stinson 150, single engine plane built in Michigan. We went to Michigan by train to pick his plane up and flew it back to RICONN. I remember running into a fog bank over the Hudson River and having to land in Kingston, New York for the night. Dad loved to fly and was a good, safe, pilot. He flew all over New England and he especially liked flying to Cape Cod's Hyannis Airport. He would buzz our Barnstable house and mother would rush my Twin Sister Mercy, our brother, Peter, and I and drive over to Hyannis to meet dad. I loved seeing dad fly around our house. He was determined to teach me how to fly and I remember him letting me take off at the wheel at Hyannis. Landing was a little trickier and I never actually did that but I did co-pilot his plane quite a bit—and I was only 15 years old. Dad seemed to have great faith in me on his plane, his boat, and even in his cars. At age 12/13 he'd let me drive his Lincoln Continental on the Maine Turnpike when we drove up to see his father in Brunswick.
Dad tradewd his Stinson 150 for a Stinson 165. It had a slightly larger engine and cruised faster. He painted "Brunswick—From Sheep to Shuttle—on his plane and used it in his textile business to call on customers. He had one important customer in Columbus, Georgia, Schwob Manufacturing, and dad would fly down to Georgia and sell Mr.Schwob worsted fabrics.
Dad's and my flying days ended one weekend in Brunswick, Maine. We'd flown up to have a lobster lunch with my grandfather, a dentist in Brunswick, and laned at the Brunswick Naval Air Station (which permitted civilian planes to use their facilities). We ate lunch with grandpa and he drove us back to the airfield where we'd planned to fly back to RICONN Airport. The wind was blowing quite hard but dad seemed confident we'd be ok. We said goodbye to grandpa and taxied out to the main runway. All at once a gust of wind blew us sideways and right into some barbed wire along the taxi ramp. We nosed over and I passed out. I remember coming to and yelling at the Navy guy who was getting ready to spray that white stuff they use to prevent fires on planes. I was ok and got off the plane but could see that our plane was damaged. We left dad's plane there and grandpa drive us back to Connecticut. Dad decided he would have his plane repaired and sell it. He figured it was time to stay on land and possibly on the sea—and his flying days were over. I remember later hearing dad reading the paper, the Boston Herald article about a plane that had crashed off Nauset Beach with four men killed. The article named the serial number of the plane and, sure enough, it was dad's former plane. I guess we were lucky we'd had just a minor crash and given up fltying when we did as this plane may have been destined for failure.
Shortly after selling his Stinson, dad saw an ad in Yachting magazine for a motor sailer built by the Stonington Boat Works of Stonington, Connecticut. One fine day he said, "Hank, let's go down and see these boats."
Stonington Boats Works was founded in 1938 by a dapper sailor named Hank Palmer. In the 1950s he'd partnered with a well-known yacht designer named Hank Scheel who designed a 37 foot and 42 foot motor sailer based on the lines of a Stonington Dragger fishing boat. Built of wood, this fine-looking boat had a forward cabin and an aft one with four bunks forward and two aft. Each cabin had bathrooms (called a head on board ship). Dad put a deposit on a 37 footer that very day and brought the boat plans home to study her in more detail. I was almost as thrilled as he was as I preferred sailing to flying and knew I was old enough to cruise with my dad. I was 17 years old when dad's boat was launched. He named it another Emily Morgan and decided to keep her in Stonington—about an hour's drive from where we lived.
Dad's Stonington motor sailer was a great boat. Stonington was a good location for day sails in Fisher's Island Sound and easy runs to Block Island, Fisher's Island, Narragansett Bay, and up the Connecticut River We cruised all over New England with some very special cruises along the Maine coast. Dad was fun to sail with and although this boat required a wind velocity of about 25 mph to really sail well she combined the joy of sailing with the comfort of a cabin-cruiser. I remember one absolutely gorgeous day cruising with dad, my first cousin, John Wilson, and my good friend, Malcolm Brown. I had had some kind of a spat with my father and asked John and Mal to boost me up to the top of the mast in the boatswain's chair. I stayed up there as we sailed the coast off Kennebunkport, Maine and dad spotted a lobster boat. He hailed it and as I watched from the top of the mast, he yelled up to me, "How many lobsters do you want Hank?" How could I stay mad at a father like this? I told Mal and John to haul me back down to the deck and that night we cooked lobsters aboard in the Kennebunkport River.
While at Tabor Academy and Bowdoin College I worked summers and usaully cruised with dad towards the end of my job—just before going back to school. In 1954 I drove a truck in West Covina, California for a guy, Larry Krauss, who dug holes for swimming pools by Anthony Pools. I'd driven to the west coast with a group of Bowdoin guys, stopping by the University of Washington to attend an Alpha Delta Phi convention. We drove down the Oregon and California coast sleeping on golf course greens at night. I reported to Mr. Krauss for my job. He took one look at me—I was still very short for my age and didn't fit the mould of a truck-driver in Larry's mind, I knew I could drive his 2 1/2 ton truck and dared him to try me out, which he did. I had a few incidents at first but stuck it out for the entire summer. My Bowdoin friend, Jake Celosse, got a job in Long Beach as a life-guard and I used to drive down and visit him in the evenings. I slept on Mr Krauss' front lawn in a sleeping bag all summer. At the end of the summer, Krauss had gotten to know me (and liked me).He tried to get me to drop out of college and join him in a new business he was setting up. When I said I couldn't disappoint my father and mother, he said, "Well, that's it, Hank, you better drive home as I'm going to hire someone else to drive your truck." I guess I was fired and decided to try selling my 1952 Ford and fly home to Connecticut. I actually called on at least 20 car dealers in Los Angeles and finally decided the car was worth much more to me than I could sell it for, and drove practically non-stop from LA to Moosup, CT.
I wa so tired when I arrived at my parent's house in Moosup that I just lay down on the front seat and slept the night thru—not wanting to wake them in the middle of the night. Dad had expected me to sell my car and fly home so he was surprised to see me parked in the driveway. He seemed pleased to see me and after I caught up on my sleep, he and I decided to go cruising again to Maine. Mother would stay home and usually drove up (down) to Maine to meet us once we got there.
That particular cruise was my most memorable one as it was leisurely. Dad, my brother Peter, and I were the crew. We left my 1952 Ford parked in Stonington and headed for Maine.. Dad never stocked much food on board as he preferred stopping at harbors with good restaurants—which was fine with Peter and me. One of dad's favorite water-holes was York Harbor, Maine. We entered in a tricky passage that turned a sharp left just before headed to the town and once we were in York Harbor, it was peaceful and calm. We'd walk up to this Inn overlooking the coast. Dad would have a glass of wine or a beer and we always ate a wonderful meal. Our weather was good and we reached the Boothbay Harbor area in early September of 1954—close to where Pat and I now have a summer home in South Bristol.
We always listened to the weather forecasts by the U.S. Coast Guard and heard that a hurricane was headed up the coast. Dad figured Boothbay Harbor was as safe a harbor we could find to ride the hurricane out and Peter and I trusted him completely. I remember taking a nap down below as the wind freshened and seeing our aluminum radar defector at mast-top suddenly let go. The wind was blwing so hard that deflector flew parallel to the water for awhile so I knew it was really blowing. Dad noticed that qwe were dragging our mooring and suggested, "Let's head out to sea as that is usually the safest place to ride out a hurricane—much safer than being blown ahore on the rocks off the Maine coast."
At about this point, a US Coast Guard cutter tied up to a dock in Boothbay Harbor hailed us asking if we'd like to tie up along-side them for the storm. "You bet!" said Dad as he saw no sign from Peter or me to go out to sea. We rode that storm out safely tied to this CG boat—a very lucky break, as many boats were blwon shore along the New England coast.
After the storm passed, dad had to go back to work and asked me to sail his Emily Morgan back to Connecticut—which I did with my friend, Bill Beacham. Bill didn't have much sailing experience but he was fun to be with and we managed to make it down the coast with no mishaps.
We had one last fine cruise together when I graduated from Bowdoin. A group of classmates and I drove down to Connecticut, where we joined dad and headed, once again for Maine. We anchored Emily Morgan in Mere Point, Maine which was close to Brunswick. One night we gathered a group of Bowdoin Glee Club members together with the leader, Professor Tillotson and headed on dad's boat to Cook's Lobster Restaurant near Bailly Island. I'll never forget cruising back on Casco Bay in a full moon from Cook's to Mere Point with me at the helm and the glee club singing those great Bowdoin songs out on the stern of our boat.
That Stonington boat had one great draw-back—it had rotten decks as Mr. Palmer used kill-dryed lumber to build it. Dad had even tried covering his decks with fiberglass but the wood continued to rot and we decided to sell the boat. Once again, I learned that dad had used some of my savings to buy this boat and he gave me part of the proceeds when I sold it (circa 1960, after I'd returned from two years in the U. S. Army in France, joining my dad in business in Moosup. We were boatless again and going through a difficult business period that I wrote about in my book, Brunswick's Legacy, A Learned Man.
Dad's interest in boating, and cars, continued, however, and when I convinced him to think about a kind of semi-retirement on Hilton Head Island, a barrier island off the coast of South Carolina, he turned back to boating—including ocean sailboat racing. I'll save that for another time as this became dad's finest years of ocean sailing —and my time together with him.