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Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

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MESSING ABOUT IN BOATS

MESSING+ABOUT+IN+BOATS
Photo of book cover by Nancy B.

 

“Believe me my young friend, there is nothing—absolutely nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” Ratty said to Mole in Kenneth Grahame’s classic novel, “The Wind in the Willows” —

My grandmother recited stories, reminiscing about past events in her life. One story involved an excursion on Chesapeake Bay when she and her sister accompanied their youthful cousins on their family yacht. Toward the end of a perfect sailing day, they headed back to Annapolis but as they entered the Severn River, a sudden gust of wind tipped their sailboat, knocking two female occupants overboard. In a flash, two gallant young gentlemen tore off their jackets and dove off the stern to rescue the “damsels in distress.” From her description, I envisioned the young people dressed in white, talking and laughing, then hushed alarm. The lads wore summer-weight serge-sailor suits and the ladies wore nautical “Gibson Girl” dresses in the newest “S” curve fashion design. The swirls of flouncy dress fabric must have looked like life preservers floating around the young ladies, but instead the brave young men performed that function with aplomb.

A few years ago, I pondered the veracity of my grandmother’s tale. Her knack of attracting attention with her stories became legendary and no one questioned her recollections. It was time to research old newspaper accounts. Voilà! Grandmother’s nautical tale was accurate and may have explained her fear as an adult of water sports. The newspaper account also validated the gallantry of the young gentlemen who averted a Severn River tragedy aboard a sailboat one summer afternoon.

Another story grandmother recounted involved her younger daughter who worked as a secretary in Washington, D.C., during World War II. One day, on her lunch break, a lieutenant from the Navy Department spotted her walking down the sidewalk and he fell in love with her at first glimpse. He observed her for several days before approaching and introducing himself. He invited her on several occasions to go sailing with him on the Potomac River. He taught her to handle his sailboat and they enjoyed war distractions by sailing and chatting. One afternoon on their return, a sudden storm approached. While navigating into port, a wind gust capsized their craft. The next day, their picture and story appeared in The Washington Post to the consternation of my panic-stricken grandmother. We were never certain if grandmother forgave my uncle for jeopardizing my aunt by his publicized sailing misadventure.

Raised near historic rivers, bays and sounds, water has enticed numerous members of my family through the generations into the Navy and Coast Guard, and into leisure water sports. I loved sailing on Chesapeake Bay and the blue water beyond, spending many years enjoying the pleasures of sailing to ports near and far. One day, while sailing back to Annapolis, I experienced a near knockdown almost at the same location as my grandmother’s nautical mishap, but this time all occupants stayed onboard. Today, I am an armchair sailor but miss my days living aboard, exploring new waters, meeting other sailors, and sampling a variety of seafood along our East Coast waterways. My first visit to numerous seaports, including Wilmington, North Carolina, was aboard my sailboat.

During years of boating, I experienced abundant recreational opportunities and appealing destinations along our East Coast watershed bays and rivers, the highways of Colonial American history awaiting a visit. An anchorage in a quiet river cove welcomed sweet dreams, snuggled against soft waves lapping starboard and port or muffled rain drops splashing on deck. To my ear, halyards singing against masts is a sound as appealing as gulls chatting in the early morning fog. The diversity of sites viewed along bays and rivers seemed limitless as seasons changed the seascapes and landscapes. An assortment of seafood delicacies beckoned this sailor, served from an abundance of restaurants dotting scenic shorelines.

No wonder picturesque environs along our Atlantic coastline continue to amaze each generation of our family with its stunning vistas and ideal waters enabling exciting and memorable sailing adventures either for personal pleasure or in service to our country. Yes, Kenneth Grahame, you were correct: “… there is nothing—absolutely nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”  

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About the Contributor
Nancy Bryans
Nancy Bryans, Writer, Teen Scene Editor, Production Assistant
Nancy graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Business Administration. She enjoyed a marketing and sales career in commercial and residential real estate. She used her management, PR and sales skills to design and write construction newsletters, media advertising and promotional brochures. Nancy served as board chair of numerous academic, civic, patriotic and charitable organizations. She resides in Brunswick Forest.

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    Chuck BinsJun 5, 2024 at 6:57 pm

    Your grandmother’s tales-turned-true mixed with your own misadventures made for some enjoyable reading. Well told!

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