Stephenson Tales


I got my first sailboat when I was twelve. It was affectionately named the J. Wellington Wimpy--I had a boat later by the same name (As they say in TIME Magazine: No connection). It was a flat bottomed slow scow with a gaff rig. My brother, Orlando, had taught me to sail, and my mother said that if I had a sailboat I had to learn to sew to mend sails. We spent hours at the sewing machine hemming, patching, and fitting swatches into open places. To this day that has served me well, I may add. Orlando owned a wonderful sailboat named The Lorelei. We were not exactly sure what it meant, but it had a romantic aura about it. It was in this boat that he taught me. When Orlando bought the boat it had been up on shore for about twenty years--upside down--and the rear deck had been buried by debris and was largely rotted out. He replaced the decking, the ribs and part of the keelson and then canvassed the entire hull and put tar in the seams so it would not leak. HA! It leaked until the day my father sawed it up while I was off in Italy in WWII. Alas. Orlando made me go to the middle of the lake, come about into the wind and STOP as we reached the racing buoy that was a constant summer fixture out in the lake. At that time Gull Lake had the largest fleet of small sailboats of any inland lake in the world! Star Sailboats Racing on Gull LakeAmong the classes of boats that raced on Gull Lake every Sunday afternoon--what a sight--all those white sails--were Star sailboats: the royalty of sailboats, the envy of every other boat owner on the lake. I always wanted a STAR. During my first teaching job at Highland Park Junior College in Highland Park, (surrounded by Detroit) was a former fellow student of mine who I would connect with years later. She owned a Star and sold it to me for a mere $600.00. I could not believe my good fortune. My fondest nautical dreams had been realized. It will come as no surprise to learn that I named it Lorelei II. Lorelei on the beachI had it for many years before, on Good Friday one year the tail end of a cyclone lifted it off its cradle on my beach, hurled it to the ground and broke the rudder post, the mast, and made a hole in the hull about a foot in any direction. Before that happened it was sailed almost every summer day. I taught numberless people to sail. One summer Perry, a student from Kansas State, lived with us for part of the summer and was taken sailing. The Star moves so smoothly because of 910 pounds of lead on the keel. It was a very mild day with what sailor's call "light air." We were kind of drifting along and Perry was obviously bored with the lack of excitement. He musingly said, "I can SWIM faster than this!"

Daddy sailing the Lorelei Replacement
© Jim Bob Stephenson 1992

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