Brand New Sailors

Marie and I lived in Washington, D.C. We didn’t know beans about sailing, but watching the sailboats cavorting on the Potomac River looked like so much fun, we decided to buy a boat.

We are both keen on adventure so we searched for a cruising type sailboat. We wanted to be able to explore the Potomac and its tributaries, and spend our weekends aboard. We planned to anchor overnight in small rivers.

We found just what we wanted at a small marina on the Potomac. It was a twenty-three-foot sloop. She had two bunks, sitting headroom, numerous sails, a Danforth anchor with nylon line, a large cockpit and a one-cylinder Palmer auxiliary gasoline engine.

The boat was propped up on the marine railway ready for the bottom to be cleaned by a pressure hose. However, this could not be done because the electricity to the yard was out.

So Marie and I borrowed buckets and scrub brushes from the boss and did the job by hand. And what a job that was! With our buckets, we made about a million trips to get water from the river. We sloshed the hull, scrubbed, then rinsed.

I have never been so tired in my whole life as I was at the end of that day. Whew! (Should have waited for the electric to come back on.) I think it was a day or two later when we painted the hull.

While the boat was up, we found something interesting. The two bladed propeller would feather! When under sail, the forward motion of the boat would cause the water, flowing past the prop, to feather it. This would give absolute minimum drag! (It might have given us a slight advantage later in racing.)

We rented a slip at the Potomac River Sailing Association, located up a small inlet off the Potomac. A friendly couple from the club went with us neophytes to help bring her back to the slip. The Palmer performed beautifully on this very short trip.


Marie took a beginner’s course sponsored by the Coast Guard. I didn’t sign up for the course, but studied with her in the evenings. I also studied in one of my books—Piloting Seamanship and Small Boat Handling by Chapman. That is one damn fine book!

We asked a friend, another George, and an accomplished

sailor, to sail with us on a couple of weekends. By the end of his tutoring, and what I had learned in Chapman’s, we felt confident enough to go out on our own. Oh, boy!clip_image004

Since our boat didn’t have a name, we named her Favonian, a word I came across accidentally while looking up something else in the dictionary “favonian, of or relating to the west wind. Mild, favoring.”

We fitted Favonian out with sturdy cooler, two-burner propane stove and a small charcoal grill. Now we were ready for a lot of fine sailing on the Potomac. Let ‘er blow!

George and his wife, Marie, sailed professionally, chartering boats in the Bahamas, then in the Virgin Islands. They then leased an uninhabited island, Little Thatch, in the British Virgin Islands, and turned it into a small hotel. After six years, they left the island and bought a lovely beachfront property on Jost Van Dyke (BVI) where they built Sandcastle Hotel and the original Soggy Dollar Bar. George is now the author of Incredible Virgin Island Adventure: A True Story.

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