Little Woody Boater at the helm, 1973 even with the hat!

This past week, I had the chance to dig through some old family files. While digging through the old family pictures and old baby  shoes, I came across a box of slides. These slides are dated 1973. I recall the trip very well but never saw the shots. It was on one of my grandfathers shakedown cruises. ya see my grandfather was a retired 2 star Admiral.  He was in mapping and that sort of thing, created some of the first Submarine maps.. It goes on and on.. I used to spend a great deal of time with him, for some reason we connected. In his retirement, he did lots of cool fancy things on all sorts of boards, RAND corporation, etc. But to a 14 year old, the coolest times were spent on his shakedown cruises for a local charter service. They would call him and give us a big yacht and say, “take it out for a week and beat the crap out of it” then they would charter them for the summer. This time I recall it was a 45 foot River Queen.. OK, not so glamorous, but fun as hell…

The River Queen, this thing would do 30 knots. It was a beast! LOVED THE GAS I recall..

Me, 1974 with a sextant, taking the noon sighting .

On those trips, I learned navigation, and basic seamanship. Lessons I have never forgotten. In fact to this day I can’t tie certain knots without closing my eyes. He used to make me do that so if we ever were in a storm or it was dark I could do it from memory. He was right.. He would wake me up at 2 AM and we would adjust the anchor.. And the best was. I got to take the helm. Twin 440 Super bee engines. 45 ft of metal, pounding down the Potomac. To a 14 year old, that trust, that sharing of information was priceless. That feeling of freedom was first found behind the wheel of a boat. And to this day, I can trace my need to escape back to that time. I can still smell the Dinty More stew my grandmother was making in the galley.. Funny how certain things stay with you..

Sitting with my father. And yes, to be honest, I was board much of the time. I would give the world to be board like that again with my father and grandfather.

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31 Responses to “My Golden Pond Moment!”
  1. Paul H.

    I am sure that because of your site and the passion that we all share as contributors, many young parents are making memories like the ones you have shared with us today, but doing so in classic boats. Your Dad and Grandpa can take some credit for that.

    While the sepia tinged memories and the passing years converge to form important impressions and recollections, these were new boats you were messing about in. But, somehow that led you here, and we all followed. Cheers to your Grandad and your Dad!

  2. WoodyGal

    Great pictures of a younger you! Doing things in boats with Grandfather’s is always very special. Glad you discovered the pictures, I’d love to see more.

  3. Alex

    I’ll bet your Dad and Grandfather also taught you never to stick your finger in a steering wheel. And hey, next time we’re together, remind me to awaken you at 2:00 a.m. to show me how to tie those knots.

    How lucky you were to have a family of boaters. Which is what you are raising yourself, of course. That’s how this classic boating affliction lives on. Make memories and your heirs will go on making them too. What a great gift to give your kids.

  4. matt

    The shots are packed in with shots of Reston in the 70’s and all kinds of strange stuff. I will update if we find more.. Fun stuff and rich in positive memories for sure. One of the most touching things was seeing my Grandmothers writing on the slides.. The discovery of unknown images is an interesting feeling.

    • WoodyGal

      Reston VA was an interesting place in the 70’s. Lots of things going on & a unique idea on it’s own.

  5. m-fine

    Even back then, you weren’t looking where you were going!

  6. Greg Lewandowski

    You were as skinny as I was when you were a kid. What the hell has happened to us over a few decades?

    • Dennis Mykols

      It is called OLD AGE, happened to me to some where along the line…

  7. randy rush-Captain Grumpy

    Great story! I see you had a thing for stupid hats even back then!

  8. Bill

    did you check those cushions your dads sitting on for the proper zippers or were you normal back then

    • randy rush-Captain Grumpy

      Look at the hat, he wasnt normal then either!

    • m-fine

      He is using a sextant to navigate down the Potomac and you bring up the word “normal”?

      • matt

        HA! No kidding, I also learned how to take a sighting on dry land in the reflection of oil. A sextant is an amazing tool. Time of day, Location, all in one deal. I have completly forgotten how to use it. But the lessons were cool. Plotting a course, and depth testing with a string and cupped sinker. To this day i dont trust a depth finder. I want to know what the bottom is made of? Clay, sand, rock?

  9. Allen

    Ah, wonderful memories of those days Matt. I have been asking my uncle for the pictures of “Pirates Lady” a 30′ Chris Craft Commander 1958ish. Where I spent fond weekends on the Sassafras River with my Granddad at Georgetown Yacht Basin. Running out into the Chesapeake to go to Great Oaks YC or Tilgmand Island, the Naval Academy and places and me taking the helm about your age. I even remember one rainy weekend when Granddad slipped on the dock and fell in and I had to help him out in a panic. The smell of cinnamon buns in the mornings when we would moor out along the river for over night. Times seemed so simple then…right, so far away but easily brought into vision when the memory bank gets a jolt like your story.
    Thanks……..I am hoping we are all doing that for our kids and grandkids too…….check out John Eldgrides book Fathered by God ….he reviews the journey from boyhood to manhood and becoming the sage……have an incredible day folks and smell the varnish !!!!
    Oh and thats why my U-22 says “Sassafras” Georgetown Md…..and I live in upper Michigan.

  10. Dennis Mykols

    This must be “Old Memerories Week”. Last Saturday I visited my old High School in Belleville, Mi. (Class of 1964). They are building a new school next to the old one and will tear down the whole old school this Summer. So they had a LAST TOUR. Boy, it brought back a ton of feelings, and at times, it was a tear jerker, of fond memories.

  11. Alex

    Today’s header caption says “Life Begins at 2 Knots.” Hmmmm. Interesting hypotheses. I suppose that depends when one believes life begins.

    Now, for each of my three kids, if you go back to the VERY beginning, if my memory serves me right, no one was actually measuring speed. Kinda busy you see…

    However, all three deliveries were well clocked, and I can assure you, each one travled far slower than two knots.

    Oh, wait a minute. I see you’re referring to boating.

    Never mind.

    (Sent en route to Hessel, so giddiness is not my fault.)

    • m-fine

      Watch out for any lingering ice!

      The good news for us is our lake has finally reached normal water levels, and all of it is liquid! I will be in Clayton this weekend so first launch will probably be the 12th.

  12. Chris / Hagerty

    Funny how many of those times of our youth when we thought we were suffering so….bored….etc, now evoke some of our fondest memories…… and yeah, whats with the hats???? you still even have hair….

  13. matt

    The hat was a trademark, i used to wear my cousens white navy cotten hat everyplace.. Could scoop water and was white. The perfect boaters had.. Like Gilligan.. HA.. The comments today have been a huge help.. I laugh at each one

  14. Texx

    In that last photo from 1973, Matt looks bored and was probably thinking to himself – “If I only had a small hand held telephone device that I could hold like this, that I could use to communicate with other people and send pictures over the airwaves… Hmmm”

    Great story today Matt… Conjures up fond memories of the good old days as a kid.

    • matt

      HA not having that hand held tool to the outside world made me focus on the entertainment of the moment. These few snap shots have brought back a flood of emotion. it was a turning point for me and my confidence in my self. A little encouragement goes a long way to a young kid.

  15. floyd r turbo

    Growing up next to water sure provides some great memories. Mine was on Sebago Lake, Maine. Started at 3 in the back of my grandfathers triple then he went to a Cruise-A-Long to save fuel. It was painfully slow, there was my boredom moments unless he let me behind the wheel, but the throttle was still barely off idle.

    When he went to take a nap, I would slowly increase the throttle on the quadrant when my grandmother wasn’t looking. Eventually, I got caught and back to off idle.

  16. Alex

    Texx, you beat me to it. But I think I really do see a DS in that pic. I guess Matt was born an early adopter.

    Course, this was the mid-’70s. Could be he’s rolling himself a “rocket.” (And I don’t mean a Chris-Craft.)

  17. MikeyB

    Reminds me very much of time with my grandad. 1/2 his life in the navy and taught me to sail, varnish and steer at a young age. His last advice to me was when he looked at my infant son and said, “Get him out on the water and he’ll turn out fine.” thanks for reminder!

  18. John Rothert

    One of the best stories ever. I keep my boat near Gwunn’s Island Va…a place I visited often with my family and especially my father, half a century ago. I can still see the scores of workboats unloading at Callis’ wharf…not a one today…but wonderful memories and experiences.
    Truely the best part of the Woodyboater lifestyle!
    Thanks for the memories!
    John in Va.

  19. John Rothert

    and some real big classics in the background of the houseboat shot???

    John in Va.

  20. ranger

    thanks for the memories! i grew up in a boating family and relived some of my childhood reading everyone’s posts.

    the first time i ever felt raw power was when my dad let me sit in his lap and hold on to the steering wheel of his 1950 19′ chris-craft gentleman’s racing runabout! i learned to waterski behind that boat as well, first on a plywood board and then riding in front of my dad on his skis until i was finally old enough and strong enough to do it all by myself!

    my grandfather built his wooden boat and at first it had a lincon v-12 motor but was later changed to a tucker engine. my uncle steve joined us at the sunnyland show this year from texas and i should him the model of grandfather’s boat that art hampton (sunnyland) had fixed up for me and he told me the reason grandpa had changed the engine was because he wanted to have the fastest boat on the lake and one day someone beat him…so he went and put the tucker engine in it to once again be the fastest boat on the lake!

  21. matt

    These comments on this story have made my week. I deeply thank all of you for that.

  22. Dave

    I have a River Queen that I restored, and it’s still a great boat.