I know that many members here have talked about building their own boats, but though I have been “on the water for most of my life, except for rentals, I never had a full sized ‘personal boat.’
I was brought up in Grand Island, New York, which is situated in the Niagara River, just northeast of Buffalo, New York. Before my parents and older sisters moved to the house that I was born into, they lived in a cottage on the West River of the Island. They had a dock and an outboard powered open boat. It used to sit behind our back fence, but I don’t recall going out in it, unless I was very young at the time.
The house was about three blocks away from the East River, and we could see the South Bridge, and the superstructures and stacks of ore freighters and tankers passing by. (Although the northern tip of Grand Island is 8 miles from Grand Island, the river around the island is navigable.)
My next door neighbors had an outboard powered mahogany boat, which we used to go out early with his parents, and later for water skiing. I have a very strong memory of skiing on the East River when the boat “lost power,” and I went down with my skis. When I looked behind me, there was a Great Lakes freighter coming up the channel behind me. At that point, I abandoned the skis and started swimming for the edge of the channel. Then the outboard motor suddenly regained its life, and my friend quickly came up to recover the skis and me.
There were plenty of other boats as well. I received rowing and canoeing merit badges at scout camp, and in Sea Explorers, we restored a former Navy Utility boat, and we used to camp out on Strawberry Island, taking everything by boat.
There were also the Thunderboats that raced every summer until the boats got too fast for the width of the river.
As a Midshipman during summer training, there were LCM’s that took us to and from our troopship to the beach; later that same summer, I took sailing lessons and became qualified on Sunfish sailboats.
The following summer, I was the Acting First Lieutenant on the USS England, DLG 22 for six weeks, and the following year, as a newly commissioned Ensign, I was assigned as an Air Intercept Controller to the USS Canberra (CAG-2), pictured here.
My second ship was the USS Connole (DE-1056), which was still in construction at Avondale Shipyard, just west of New Orleans.
Following that tour, I went to the US Navy Logistics Support Activity/Naval Advisory Group, involving transfer of maintenance of the ‘Brown Water Navy’ to the Vietnamese Navy. My last ‘gray’ ship was the USS Barbour County (LST-1195), which was involved in the evacuation of Vietnam.
I also was on a Disney Cruise in later years with no concerns about standing watches.
As a result of being brought up on the river and ocean, I have come to love and model all kinds of ships and boats, so it often gets difficult to decide what type to build.