Sailing and Boating

By John R. Vollaro              March 2006

    I was introduced to boats at an early age during our many family vacations at Schroon Lake. At first they were leaky wooden row boats that had to be bailed out each time they were used. There was an old 5hp outboard motor that my father bought before I was born.  The Water Witch was sold by "Sears and row back" and I faithfully watched and learned the ritual that was required to coax it into its cantankerous operation. When I was 7 I was not strong enough to pull the starter cord but I begged my father to let me get it ready to start. First check to see that there is gas in the tank then open the air vent. Turn the gas on by reaching under the motor and turning the valve handle until it is aligned with the gas line. Now you advance the spark. Not too far or it will kick back and throw you in the lake. Next advance the throttle and set the choke. Not all the way on because it will flood but if you don't choke it enough it will backfire. Now put the knot in the starter cord in the notch on the flywheel and wrap it around twice. Ok, its ready to start. If you did everything just right you were rewarded with a smoky roar on the third or fourth pull. If not, you might as well row because it isn't going to start today. I mastered the process and was soon starting the motor under Dad's supervision.

    You can imagine the excitement when my dad bought a new aluminum row boat and we put the Water Witch on it. Wow, it planes with one person in it and probably goes 15 mph. What if Johnny took it out alone? He's so light it might go 20. I still remember my first solo. It was a calm day but every ripple smacked the hull and sounded like a machine gun. With the wind in my face I felt like I was going 100 mph. What a thrill! The boat seemed a little unstable with just me in it so Dad helped me build an extension to the tiller handle so I could steer from the middle of the boat. This fixed the problem and I felt like king of the lake.

    I soon became a test piolit. When our neighbor got a new 7.5hp motor he said "Take it for a spin Johnny. I want to see how fast it will go with just you in it". Talk about a thrill. Everyone watched from the shore as I went roaring by. My father not to be out done, soon ordered a new motor. The 12hp Sea King had enough power to throw you out of the boat if you were not careful. We soon discovered it was strong enough to pull water skies and with home made skies, a new boating adventure began.

    My father also liked to sail. He crafted a sailing aporatus for the canoe he had purchased on his honeymoon. Again I watched and learned but he seldom took me with him. It was all he could do to keep it from capsizing and he would not risk it with me in the boat. Some years later I became proficient at sailing a Sunfish. This small boat was very quick in the water and also  capsized easily. Unlike the canoe though, it was easily righted and though very wet, you could continue sailing. I think it was Fathers Day 1959 when my brother Joe and I bought a new Sunfish for Dad. We all enjoyed sailing it and it was a good thing that we did it when we did because as it turned out, Dad only had a few years left to enjoy it.

    I always enjoyed sailing small boats but never had an opportunity to sail on anything larger than 16 feet in length. Alice and I wanted to do something special on our tenth wedding anniversary and we decided to plan a sailing adventure in the Virgin Islands. This was a bold step for us in many ways but it lead to a number of lasting memories. It turned out to be only the first of a continuing series of sailing trips to the Virgin Islands. I kept sea logs during these trips and they are part of this section. There are also other "sea stories" here including some from my summer job at Lakeview.

    It is interesting to note that the canoe, row boat and Sunfish spoken about here are still in existence (as of  2006) at Luisanda. The motors however are long gone.

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