Saturday, July 28, 2012

Willy Wispe: Children's Log #1, 1965

When I was younger, my family shared a sailboat with another family – an Alberg 35 by Pearson, called Willy Wispe. Through a web search, I recently discovered that Willy Wispe is still sea-worthy, still owned by the same family, and currently moored on Cayuga Lake, New York. It's been painted a much more beautiful color since the 1970's! It's very comforting to know it's still on the water, and from a distance looks in very good shape.

When we lived in Connecticut we would sail around New England during the summer. When we moved to Ohio, conveniently, the co-owners of the boat moved to Michigan, so we were able to share the boat for another four years.We would spend our summer vacations sailing on Lake Huron and Superior, in the Georgian Bay and the North Channel in Canada.

When we moved back to Connecticut my dad sold our interest in Willy Wispe and invested in day sailers and racing boats rather than a cruiser. Since we were teenagers by then, it was a good decision by my father, as it would've have been very tight quarters with five "adults" on board!

During the "Willy Wispe" years, every August we would spend two to three weeks sailing and traveling from port to port. It was cramped, with some challenges, but we always had an adventure – or two. My dad was a proud member of the Corinthians, the New York Yacht Club, and the Noroton Yacht Club, and as you will see in the Log, some of our vacations were actually spent racing as a family.

Coincidentally, one of our neighbors and a good friend of my parents was Bill Shaw, one of Pearson's most successful boat designers. There's a great article by Steve Mitchell from the on the history of Pearson Yachts, if you're interested, just click on the hyperlink. He's not the Bill of "Bill & Lue Allen", listed below; they were my de facto aunt and uncle, my parent's friends from University of Michigan, whom we spent many a summer, with their family, on Drummond Island.

My dad would write in the ship's Captain's Log every day. My mother, with her lifelong love of spiral steno pads, created a Children's Log for us to share our thoughts – a futile effort. I found three years of logs, all on the East Coast, and I'll post them here. Each one starts with kid's handwriting but soon thereafter, it's my mother putting in all the notes. And for a little more perspective, in 1965, the three of us ranged in age from 6-10.

Trip with Bill and Lue Allen

August 10, 1965
We drove from Darien to Watch Hill, Rhode Island. While getting ready for bed we noticed the lights getting dimmer and dimmer and found our batteries were dead.

August 11, 1965
We sailed from Watch Hill to Block Island. Later on in the day we went to a cocktail party. It was on the shore. We stayed at the party for about an hour. Billy and Bobby went back to the boat to get our name tags. Billy brought them back and Bobby stayed on the boat. As soon as Billy came back with the name tags, we were going back to the boat. Sarah said that she was going to row Mrs. Ambrose and Mrs. Allen. She was going as slow as a turtle. We did not get back to the boat rowing. My father was operating the launch because the boy wasn't there. 

We gave my father the painter of the dingy. He pulled us all the way to the boat.

August 12, 1965
We came from Block Island to Brenton Harbor new Newport. We came in third in the race. We lost our spinnaker just before we went over the finish line.

August 13, 1965
We went from Brenton Harbor to Bristol. Clambake. Saw Beth and Cathy Shaw.

From hereon, it's my mother's writing, and the information much more detailed and relevant to grown-ups.

August 14, 1965
Went into Bristol – walked to stores and met bus on street. Saw Herreshoff Museum. Back to boat. Did not sail in crew race because of rain and wind. Went directly to Potter's Cover. Made kites. Rowed and sailed dinghy.

August 15, 1965
Raced from Potter's Cove to Dutch Island Harbor. Went ashore after dinner and walked. Stopped at bowling alley where mommy washed. Walked all the way to Manny's Tavern, near Jamestown's Ferry Dock. Draft beer and shuffleboard. Ice cream cones after hours. Saw old fire engine. House for an animal next to tree with toys tied in it. Hard rowing going home.

August 16, 1965
Raced Dutch Island to Jamestown. Wind-up dinner. Chicken, rice, crabmeat salad, etc.

August 17, 1965
Cruised to Newport. Did laundry, shopped, left about 12:30 pm and went into increasingly dense fog. Turned back and spent night at Newport shipyard. At (after 1-1/2 hour wait) at "Christies."

August 18, 1965
Sailed from Newport to Cuttyhunk. Went ashore, shopped. Had a picnic on the beach with 2 fires. Boys collected firewood. Had steak, potatoes, tomatoes, and of course, wine. Sarah and mommy collected bay leaves and bay berries.
Artist's conception of the fort built by Bartholomew Gosnold's expedition on Elizabeth Islet, Cuttyhunk Is., Mass., in May/June 1602. The first English habitation in New England. Illustration in Robert Maitland Brereton, Reminiscences of an Old English Civil Engineer 1858-1908, pub. Irwin-Hodson Portland, Oregon 1908.

August 19, 1965
Cuttyhunk, long day's motor and sail to Nantucket. Had dinner and went to bed. Saw swordfish just caught.

August 20, 1965
Rented car and drove all over Nantucket, stopping here and there. Cool day. Had clam chowder dinner, shopped and shopped.

August 21, 1965
Allens left – we drove them to airport and then went to Surfside for a swim in the breakers. Had dinner out. Shopped again.

August 22, 1965
Sailed and motored from Nantucket to Falmouth. Played poker and went to bed.

August 23, 1965
Cleaned boat.


  1. Sarah,
    Looks like they were fun summers. We had a small boat too and I was always getting sick. Not the fondest memories I have.

    1. Yes, the good ol' days getting seasick. My mom said we took turns getting sick, one summer it was me, then my brother. But once we got through it, we were never sick again. Ah, fun times.