Thursday, June 07, 2007
The Schooner Family
This is about the good old days, and how they are still good. The photo was taken in 1994, the day Voyager left Mystic for Michigan after I sold it. I saw a lot of the above folks the last few days. Amy, the woman smiling in the center, started out as a mate in the early 90's on Voyager, the 95 foot schooner I designed and built in 1977. She became its captain after a year or two. After I sold Voyager, Amy came back and captained and managed Argia, a smaller 86 foot schooner I designed and built in 1986. Amy bought Argia from me about 6 years ago, along with the associated business, Voyager Cruises. Last Friday, Voyager Cruises expanded when Amy brought to Mystic the biggest schooner built in this country since World War II. Amy brought it up from its construction yard in the Florida panhandle. The schooner is appropriately called "Mystic". Amy herself had it designed, raised the financing and had it built, a 150 foot three-masted multi-million dollar boat.
It just amazes me the hundreds of people that have gone through Voyager Cruises, family and friends, how well many of them have done with their lives, and how many are still involved. I went down to the docks a few hours ago, and there were about 20 people, all hustling and bustling, getting "Mystic" ready for its first cruise. Passengers boarding this Sunday, and boat leaving Monday morning! There is LOTS to do.
There was Mal, in the left in the above picture, working on "Mystic". Mal was mate on Voyager a long time ago. Mary Kirby is next to him in the photo. I was best man at her wedding in the mid-90's. She also was a mate, and then captain with us, and is now mate on the high-speed ferries to Block Island. She was taking trash off the schooner, with Denise, who used to cook for us over 10 years ago, and also played hostess for catered day sails. She had also taken the above photograph 13 years ago. Denise's younger sister, who I had never seen working on a boat, was happily painting a ceiling.
In the picture, next to Mary is Marco, who also started out with us in the early 1990s. He now drives big 2,000 horsepower tugboats up and down the West Coast to Alaska, but he was relief captain on the 100 horespower Argia while on leave last week. Behind Marco is John Smallidge. Have not seen him in a while. He gave me my first job in the marine business, as assistant sailing instructor at Niantic Bay Yacht Club in the early 60's, then hired me as steward, the bottom man on the totem pole, on the 108' Mystic Whaler in 1971.
Behind Amy is James, who cooked on many schooners, and worked with us on and off since the early 1990s. James has hundreds of thousands of miles of sailing under his belt. James and Marco both came down to the docks Friday night to greet the "Mystic". Next to James is Kitty, who managed the Steamboat Inn for many years, where Voyager and Argia docked. Before the building was an Inn, it was a restaurant, and James was the head chef. Next to Kitty is me and then Nick the bridgetender. Nick lived in the little bridge house in the picture, 8 hours a day, so he knew a lot more than I what was going on with the boats. Nick had a great sense of humor.
Not in the above picture, but working hard getting "Mystic" ready for its first cruise, were other captains that had worked with us at least a decade before, Rick Nestler, Tim Rice, Beth Mongillo and Jody. Coming down to see the schooner were many other "old timers" Dean Seder, Josh Lyons, John Bebeecenter, and my wife Gig (please don't refer to her as an "old-timer"). And my daughter Leigh was on her second day as captain of Argia, docked next to "Mystic."
So, what's the point of all this rambling? It's not bragging or self-serving. I started a business in 1977, sold it 25 years later in 2002, and many of the people that I hired years ago are still involved with it as its friends, and part-time and full-time employees. To me, that is BIG. Voyager Cruises has always been more of an extended family than a traditional "business". These people are what made, and still make, the business great. The most important thing was always to treat the crew right, the second most important goal was a quality product at a fair price. The third, but not forgotten, priority was to make money, which is probably why I'm almost always on a tight budget. But someday on my deathbed, when I can't take anything material with me, how much money I made will not be very important. What will be important is the legacy I leave behind. (I promise I will leave enough funds for my wife to live above the poverty level).
Amy is a much better business person than me, and makes a loads more profit, but I like to think I helped give the business its heart, which is still beating thanks to her and our sailing fraternity.
When I saw a licensed master captain taking mounds of trash off a boat to get it ready, late in the day and at no pay, I knew I started something right.
Below is a picture of the schooner Voyager, taken in the early 90's. James is at the wheel steering. It's lunchtime, and we went down below to get out of the wind to eat the great lunch he made. James loved to steer while the crew was eating! It's blowing about 25 knots, all the sails are up, and Voyager is cutting though the water at about 11 knots, with a "bone in her teeth".