This husband of mine, this empty nest Papa, this man I’ve been married to for almost 40 years, I know what makes him tick. He loves anything historical. And trains. And ships.
His fascination with things nautical possibly emerged because his oldest brother, 17 years older than he, served in the Navy for some of my husband’s growing up years. We even have an old photo of my hubby as a boy dressed in his big brother’s sailor clothes.
As a teenager, hubby joined the United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps, a program for students to develop leadership skills and learn basic seamanship, with some opportunities to become disciplined and self-reliant as well on an actual ship.
The opportunity to spend two weeks one summer as a Sea Cadet aboard a Navy aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Mexico proved to be something he relished.
So I’m supposing those experiences, along with spending every summer vacation at Atlantic Ocean beaches, had a hand in this boy maturing into a man who enjoys the sea and all the vessels that sail upon it. Books, written by C.S. Forester about the fictional naval officer Horatio Hornblower, still remain some of my husband’s favorite reads.
Deep down inside this man, my husband, is a little boy who I think always wanted to be a sailor. In college, he would have preferred Navy ROTC, but only the Army offered ROTC there, so he took that route instead.
This former Army man though has never lost his enchantment for the sea. I know he would love to learn how to sail, but this landlubber (me) doesn’t share his enthusiasm for such a thing. When we lived in the Pacific Northwest, he did experience sailing once with some co-workers and that really….ahem…floated his boat.
In our married life, Papa has managed to convince me to board an Oregon whale watching day cruise, several ferries on both sides of the country, New York City and Boston harbor cruises, and also some boat rides on the Mississippi, Allegheny, and Ohio rivers, but hasn’t yet talked me into a several day ocean cruise as a future vacation.
That one will be a hard sell because I’m more of a stay on the beach and listen to the surf than actually be in it or on it. When Papa and I developed an itinerary for our summer vacation this year, we made a bargain.
While I enjoy history but am not quite as fascinated by museums and every display in them as Papa is, we agreed we would visit enough to satisfy him yet not overwhelm me. And while I do enjoy the seaside as much as he does, preferably on the shore not on the sea, we also agreed to visit some nautical attractions as well.
It worked perfectly for us.
I’m happy to report this vacation satisfied both of our longings. Enough military, history, and nautical venues for Papa and plenty of new experiences, sights, and gorgeous views to make Mama and her camera content.
Our travel schedule included several points along the Hudson River Valley including West Point Military Academy, Revolutionary War sites in Lexington & Concord and Boston, with side trips to Quincy and Plymouth, MA culminating in just the right amount of history for Papa but not so much that it bored Mama.
In Boston, we both enjoyed boarding the USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned warship called Old Ironsides, and imagining all that had taken place on this mighty 200-year-old vessel.
However, Papa was pretty disappointed that the regal sailing ship was dry-docked for repair work and the sails were off the riggings. He also satisfied his ship-loving side by getting to see the USS Massachusetts.
During our visit to Mystic Seaport, CT, Papa participated in a demonstration that brought a huge smile to his face and pleased me to see him so delighted. While touring the Charles W. Morgan, the oldest commercial whaling ship still afloat, we happened to be there at just the right time.
The knowledgeable guide on the vessel explained that it was time to hoist one of the sails and that he and the other guides needed help doing so. My hubby was one of the first to volunteer.
The guide instructed volunteers when to pull on the halyard rope to hoist the sail and when to let go. He explained that he would sing a chantey, a type of call-and-response song, like those used long ago to coordinate the sailing ship’s crew while they worked together to raise a sail.
After he explained, he commenced singing an old seafaring chantey and each time he sang, “Blow, ye boys, blow,” the volunteers pulled as hard as they could in unison on the beat ‘blow.’
I don’t remember the exact chantey song he sang, but it might have been something like this one I found:
“A Yankee ship came down the river,
Blow, boys, blow!
Her masts and spars they shine like silver,
Blow, my bully boys, blow!”
With each pull on the word “blow,” the sail rose higher and higher until it was aloft.
I could tell from the look on my husband’s face that he enjoyed the experience immensely.
“Was it fun?” I asked him when the demonstration was complete. With that little boy grin on his face, he replied, “It sure was!”
And you know what? It was fun. I got a kick out of watching him revel in the experience of being a sailing ship crew member (even if it was only for a few moments).
Because when Papa’s happy, so is Mama.
“Happiness is like a kiss. You must share it to enjoy it.” ~ Bernard Meltzer