Vineyard Race

Letter: Swallows, Amazons, and Memories

Mr. Cooper,

I’m 87, and grew up sailing in Long Island’s Little Neck Bay. My heart skipped a beat when I read your mention of Swallows and Amazons [“Summer Reading,” July 2017]. As an 11-year-old girl, I fell in love with the book. I introduced a grandson to it when he was little; he followed in my love of sailing and crewed in the 2015 Transatlantic Race!

As a teenager, I talked my father into buying me a 16-foot wooden plank sloop complete with muslin sails...an old, homemade tub that had to be re-caulked by me every spring and after launching it still leaked a bit all summer…Ha ha! But I had so much fun sailing in the Bay with a few boys my age...everyone had a different class boat. We had races, and I was always last until one day we had heavy winds and my old tub won!

Also a teen favorite was Seven Seas on a Shoestring by Dwight Long, published in 1939. A few years ago, I was able to buy a used copy from a New York City book dealer. Believe it or not, this past weekend the Wall Street Journal had a great review of Swallows and Amazons in their Book section. Perhaps you saw this. 

Best regards,
Anne Brown, Port Washington, NY

PS – We were all agog when a new post-war Luders 16 was moored in the Bay. It was beautiful!

Joe Cooper replies:

Dear Ms. Brown,

Thank you, thank you so much for your delightful letter. It struck me on several levels largely because the Swallows and Amazons series is a permanent part of my childhood, even as a grown child. Your grandson is a very lucky young man to have had a grandma with such an interest and adventurous streak.

Sailing can be today such a technological heavy activity, yet at its root it is much more than a sport or the Olympics or any of the other elite events. Rather it is, to me, how the Walkers, Blacketts, Callums and all the rest used it. Great adventures with family and friends.

Your adventures mirror mine albeit I had a fairly watertight Sabot, a tender to my dad’s boats. We would arrive somewhere, lower the anchor, raise the awning and I was off, sometimes for hours at a time. In the evenings I would read S&A books by the light of a kerosene hurricane lamp. I have that lamp’s descendants on our Ranger 33 now…and Swallows and Amazons, too. The smell of kerosene even today transports me, Doctor Who-like, back to those sunny, fun-filled days long ago.

Thank you so much for sharing your history with me and our readership.

Cheers,

Coop


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