I recently dug through the dusty contents of my personal library, which has been living in exile ever since we moved to our current house four years ago. Shame on me, I know. But picking through stacks of books was reminiscent of browsing a well-stocked nautical used-book store before that species went extinct.
But as comfortable and practical as his bateau might be for canal touring, it’s a far cry from the vessels Len used to sail across the deep blue and the one he is building down in Queensland on the other side of the planet. Len, who has a full head of gray hair and a nicely trimmed beard, was wearing metal-rimmed glasses and a casual shirt with an unbuttoned collar, and he smiled into the camera as he spoke. There was that nagging Skype delay and the echo, but he came across loud and clear.
Growing up, I had ambitious dreams. Now, at an age when my knees are getting creaky — and my mind perhaps a little leaky — I still dream, but I also return to places I left for larger, greener and more exciting pastures. Touching home base on one of those trips recently added a chapter to my sailing experience that had eluded me for five decades.
As the product of a landlocked place north of Italy with pretty but exhaustingly windless lakes, my clock ticks differently than it would had I grown up around Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay. Long before stories about Capt. Nathanael Greene Herreshoff and his sleek yachts seeped into my consciousness, cars designed by Ettore Bugatti topped my lust list. Maybe I just had too much fun letting his name roll off my tongue.As I learned about Capt. Nat and the Herreshoff Manufacturing Co. on Burnside Street in Bristol, R.I., where he conceived, built and splashed his creations, I began to think of him and Ettore as soul mates.
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