Last weekend Woody Boater jumped on board to help with a few Live-ish reports from the Military Appreciation Event held in Jacksonville, NC. This was a unique, first of it’s kind, classic boating event which began as a dream by a few ACBS Members to benefit the Marines and their families. Ginger & Randy Clark were very much involved, turning this dream into a reality, and after returning home to Florida, Ginger Clark sent us her thoughts about the event, from start to finish. It’s a big story, with a happy ending.
Reflections of Marine Corps Air Station, New River, Camp LeJeune, Jacksonville, NC.
April 7-10, 2011
It started with a question asked by Terry Ross with the Sunnyland Chapter of ACBS, “Would you please think about hosting an event?” Realizing that we had a unique opportunity, we knew we wanted to do something for the Marines. Now, the “why” of doing an event like this was always crystal clear to us, it was the “what & how” that would be a little trickier to figure out.
After months of back & forth phone calls and emails, Sam O’Leary, the Director of Semper Fi at Camp LeJeune, accepted our invitation to the Charlotte show in September to come meet the Blue Ridge Chapter. Sam fell in with the group instantly and during the banquet the plan to hold an event on a Marine Corps base was presented, the agreement to move forward on this was unanimous.
Due to ongoing construction at Camp LeJeune, Sam introduced us to Richard Cole, his counterpart at MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station)
New River. Richard invited us, Ed Longino & Jim Templeton to come to the base in January, 2011 to look over the facilities and to meet members of his team that would be in on the planning of this event and that would help shepherd it through the numerous military channels it would have to go through for permission to be granted. To our knowledge this is the first time an antique boating event had been held on a Marine Corps base, we had a lot to learn about each other and it was our mutual desire to do something unique for the troops that kept the project moving forward.
Until…(and the sound of really creepy music should be heard in the background here)…an issue with insurance came up. Randy was out of state and Al Olsen, Pres. of Blue Ridge Chapter was out of the country so I instinctively called Ed Longino for help that day. I know he could hear the fearful uncertainty in my voice as I told him of the huge issue that had now sprung up between the Dept. of the Navy and ACBS. He quickly offered to look into the matter and see if there was anything he could do to help. So, we kept moving forward on our end all the while hoping that he would be able to work things out on his. Who could have predicted all that would be required of him to work out an agreement between the Navy and ACBS; but it was definitely a case of the right man for the job.
It wouldn’t be until nearing the end of March that we would be given the go ahead to release the registration forms. We had attracted the attention of WoodyBoater.com and they did a lot to help us get the word out as the time for the event was getting very near and we still needed more boats.
We received confirmation of 22 boats with approximately 50 boaters attending the event, so the last minute details were seen to and the serious business of getting the boat and truck ready for its first long run up the highway for the year began. Chapters that had boats attending were Blue Ridge, Sunnyland, RDC/Triangle, Chesapeake Bay, Indian Lake and Water Wonderland. In Walterboro, South Carolina we met up with three other Florida boats for the night which would leave only 4 hours for the final leg into Jacksonville, NC the next morning. At MCAS New River the boats started arriving one after the other; some of these folks we hadn’t seen in six months and it sure was good to see their smiling faces again.
The wind was up that afternoon so most of the boats were unhitched from their trucks and moved by tractors by the marina crew to a secured area or the beach area according to owner’s preferences. We were also told that the gas at the marina was $3.10 per gallon for non-ethanol 87 octane and we were welcome to fill up not only our boats but our vehicles as well – OoRAH! (This is at a time when regular gas is running about $3.70 per gallon).
The boaters then made their way to the BOQ where their rooms had been upgraded to the Sr. NCO Officer’s suites, sweet! That evening we gathered at Sywanyk’s Scarlet & Gold Traditions club for cocktails and dinner. The Sargent Majors collection of Marine Corps memorabilia was a huge hit as many of the boaters were veterans of military service. Every conceivable inch of the two story building had been covered with Marine Corps history! Several boaters made their way back there on other nights as well.
Early Friday morning we met at the marina where we were greeted with coffee and an array of donuts, muffins and bagels. It was then that we learned how the potential government shut down had almost caused the event’s cancellation even as we were traveling to NRAS, thankfully, the decision had been made that it should proceed but a lot of their plans had to be changed on the fly as the Marines made their preparations.
We did get to entertain 68 local schoolchildren with wooden boat kits that had been brought in by Jennifer & Jamie Mosher. The children assembled and painted the boats and the sound of happy kids was music to our ears, there were some very beautiful and colorful boats painted that day. The children also got to look at the boats parked along the shoreline and speak with some of their owners.
While all that was going on the boats started launching with OoRAH being one of them. Randy had to power the boat off the trailer as it was going in on low tide. As he took her out unto the water he tried to bring her up to speed; she started vibrating and shaking, he brought the boat slowly to the dock to tie up until the tide was higher to bring it out to see if he had damaged a prop or something. We had a spare prop and with no shortage of offered help we continued on with our day as a group of boats headed off for lunch up the New River to the Marina Café where the food was excellent.
Once back at NRAS marina we pulled OoRAH and her prop wasn’t bent! Instead some black mesh netting that had been left behind from the temporary ramp repairs had wrapped itself tight around the prop and shaft; it took several minutes to cut through it all but once off the boat behaved beautifully in the water once again.
It was on this day that Randy learned that Bill Baker a boater in with the “Last Nickel” from the RDC Chapter had served at NSA around the same time that Randy did. Randy has stayed in touch with the Marines he had served with in Washington, DC and is hooking Bill up with the rest of the guys. It’s a small world after all…
We also learned firsthand what a government shutdown meant on a military base as the Marines were busy running to the banks and grocery stores trying to see to their families. So, all the Marines we had hoped to entertain that day were not there to join us for our BBQ. The marina staff was fabulous, cooking up hot dogs & hamburgers for us to enjoy.
We held our ‘Pot Luck’ auction where the boaters had brought in an item to be put for auction. Ed Longino took to the microphone and got everyone up for the bidding. We had a vintage wooden slalom ski, handmade crafts, decorative items, two large seascape framed prints, tools, bags, boat glassware, a Chris-Craft advertisement (same as the one on Woody Boater) signed by Chris Smith and six magnum bottles of Jarhead Red wine which had been donated to us by Curtis Winery. Jarhead Red is a wine made for Marines by Marines, with portions of the proceeds going to a scholarship fund for the children of fallen Marines. Sgt. Grits donated a laptop computer bag and a gun carry bag each with the Marine Corps; Eagle, Globe & Anchor emblem on them. We collected over $700 dollars for Wounded Warriors – OoRAH.
Also that evening Chris Smith gave a talk about Chris-Craft and gave special attention to its involvement in WWII. Oh, how we had wanted the Marines to hear this story; but we all learned new things about Chris-Craft and cannot thank Mr. Chris enough for his generous offer to give his talk that evening!
Saturday we again were greeted with coffee and hot breakfast sandwiches from Wendy’s, now we’re starting to get spoiled. A brief safety meeting and outline of the day’s events was given and we started making our way to our positions. We had 500 Marines and their families at the marina for a fun day and we got busy, real busy; talking about our boats; offering rides and doing what we came for – saying Thank You to our Marines and their families.
I grabbed a prime spot, just the one I had been wanting; I got to greet the families as they came down the dock and help get them in and out of the boats! We had a bunch of boats running all day; inviting the riders to not limit themselves to one ride but to take as many rides as they would like, in as many boats as they would like to ride!
I hope I never forget the feeling I felt when the very first group of riders went out in OoRAH. I was about to burst with pride, we did it! The boaters had done it! We were meeting the Marines, their families and everyone was having a great time! The smiles on the faces of the children were even bigger when they came back in from the ride than they were when they had left the dock, it was perfect!
The Marines were all very polite and appreciative of our efforts to show them a great time for the day and with the marina activities planned for them as well, it was a day to remember; the giant Easter Bunny; that was just the icing on the cake!
The boats stayed in the water running until the last Marine had been given a ride. We can’t thank the boat operators enough for their time behind the wheel, you all were amazing! I would also like to say a special thank you to Terry Ross & Jitterbug. That little Bender Skiff was a big hit! She & Tim finally needed a well-deserved break and that left a father and son standing on the dock, they had already waited for a very long time with absolutely no compliant. When she heard their story she brought Jitterbug back out to give them each a long ride. The son had special needs and she let him dictate the speeds and he had a great time, loving every minute of the ride! The father was equally as grateful to her, thank you!
Oorah’s last ride of the day was with the Colonel of the squadron having their family fun day at the marina on saturday. Randy took him & his family out, what an honor for us this whole event had been.
Saturday night we held our final dinner at the Officer’s Club. The food was amazing, really some of the best we have ever had and when the dining room and kitchen staff were brought out and introduced, they got a standing ovation. And there was dancing, lots & lots of dancing! The Conductors entertained us and they were great! It was wonderful to see everyone up and having a great time, the Congo line wrapped all the way around the room! Our son, Cody even asked me to dance and then he whispered in my ear not to tell anyone but he was having a really good time! After all, he has the image of a disinterested 17 year old to uphold.
Richard Cole presented Blue Ridge with a paddle commemorating the event; which they in turn they gave to Randy & me! More bottles of Jarhead Red were presented as our thank you to Richard Cole – Semper Fit Director – NRAS, Sam O’Leary – Semper Fit Director – Camp LeJeune, Mike Smith – Outdoor Recreation Director – NRAS and Ron Jones from the marina for all of their hard work on our behalf. Our ideas had been big; theirs were even bigger – the event had been a success!
To bring people together with a common interest in historic, antique and classic boats, sharing fellowship, information, experience and exchange of ideas.
To protect the heritage of boating by promoting, first the preservation and, secondly, the restoration of historic antique and classic boats.
To promote, further and encourage a love and enjoyment of all aspects of historic, antique and classic boating.
And finally, yes…there really is an ending to this story…
We are sure that every boater has a story from this event and we hope that they will share them with all of us. We have a story, too. We met a young Marine and his family that touched our hearts. On our drive home to Florida as we were talking about our weekend all three of us came up with this same family as having had an impact on us. He had a very real interest in our old boats and we were able to find him with help and have started to share some information on places online he can go to learn more about them. It would be wonderful if someone who rode in these boats takes up this passion with us. We’re not even sure just what it is that we are trying to accomplish here but we’re grateful for the opportunity to maybe help them in some small way.
I would also like to say a huge thank you from the boaters to everyone at NRAS & the Marines that opened their doors to us and made this event possible.
I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with Ginger & Randy Clark, and their son Cody at the Sunnyland Antique Boat festival in March. They are wonderful, caring people just doing what they can to give something back to the Marines and the Antique & Classic Boating hobby. That’s the essence of what the hobby is all about.
Photos Courtesy of Robert & Linda Miracle – Miracle Photography