For part of my growing up years, I lived in Florida. My parents taught themselves how to sail. Ultimately, they bought an old sail boat before it was scrapped for salvage.
They called their boat the “Wayward Wind” after a song made popular by Gogi Grant.
It was an appropriate title on many levels. With my mother’s love of drink and my father’s uncanny ability to emulate Willy Loman, the Wayward Wind was emblematic of life in the fifties for a certain segment of the American population following the horrors of WW II.
I remember sailing, particularly with my mother. She claimed to be the first woman in Florida to be commercially licensed to take up to six passengers for hire on jaunts in the Gulf. Whether the Coast Guard really gave her that license is suspect, but I like to think it was true. Like all truly dedicated alcoholics, she was strong-willed, persistent and perfectly capable of daring do. She was hard too. She didn’t give a damn when I got badly rope burned hands playing out the big sail called a spinnaker.
Only 28 feet long, the boat had been used as sponge boat in and around Tarpon Springs. Free divers would find sponges on the bottom, and pile them in the boat. The sponge market, at least for real sponges, was and is pretty strong. But even the frugal Greeks who sought the sponges knew when a boat had reached the end for commercial purposes.
For those who know anything about sailing, the boat was a gaff rigged ketch. Here’s a sketch of the type I mean:
Here is a photo of a boat of the same type and roughly the same size, although far grander than the Wayward Wind:
I learned a lot on the Wayward Wind. I could set the sails by myself. I became adept at sailing the little boat using the antiquated single tiller rather than the customary wheel most people envision as the steering device. I loved standing on the bowsprit (the wooden peace that extended out over the water in the front of the boat) and feeling the rush of wind. I learned about radio direction finders. I loved sailing with a stiff wind as this ponderous little craft, designed for stability rather than speed, plowed through the seas causing water to come over the side of the boat like a rushing river.
Best of all, I learned how to call the Tampa Marine operator. I would pick up the radio, press a button and declare: “This is WG 2802, the yacht Wayward Wind calling the Tampa Marine Operator.” Asking for a time check or a weather report from the operator was my first step into manhood.
All of this was very long ago. Perhaps it is all a dream. It seems like that now.