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San Juan Islands, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 500, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.

27 January 2013

❖ Early Reminiscences from Miles McCoy ❖ Part I

Miles McCoy and his SHARON L.
At home, West Sound, WA.
Photo by Donna Morrison, San Francisco

"In the early 1940s I was absorbed in rowing and sailing boats. 
      Dwight Long [1913-2001] had completed a 'round the world adventure; he had filmed portions of it and was billed to appear and narrate the movie. He was also scheduled to sell and autograph his published books at the Neptune Theater in the UW district in Seattle, not far from the house where we lived. My parents took me to see the film and purchased a copy of the book Seven Seas on a Shoestring*. With those days behind me, I never looked back. Anything to do with boats and sailing has been my consuming interest for over seventy years.
      Dwight Long joined the Navy early in WWII and became an aerial photographer. Occasionally the Seattle newspapers would have articles about Dwight; mother usually saved the clippings. As I became aware of other sailors and their published books, I was hooked. There were not a lot of books by small boat circumnavigators before WWII. During the war years there was very little boating and sailing activity around Seattle. 
      Right after the war ended my dad and I found a good 'not too old' wood catboat for sale. She was some shabby but mostly sound. My father made an offer on SHARON L. [blt 1933] and our boating and sailing experience began in earnest.
SHARON L. sailing the San Juan Islands.
Photograph by Joanne Fraser

      The next several years found us learning to sail and refurbish the big catboat. I managed to finish high school and garner some experience crewing and maintaining larger sailing vessels. 
       By 1950 Uncle Sam was looking over my shoulder. War in Korea was heating up; I joined a US Marine Corps Reserve Squadron at Sand Point Naval Air Station, Seattle. I became a weekend warrior maintaining and fueling airplanes. It turned out to be an excellent choice because it was close to home. I did not want some Navy dude from Kansas showing me how to tie a bowline. Within a year I found myself stationed at Marine Corps Air Station, Kaneohe, Hawaii. This was about half an hour out of Honolulu and the Ali Wai Yacht Harbor and Waikiki Beach. 
       On my first weekend of liberty I was dock-walking and exploring the haunts of the sailing crowd when I found an acquaintance from Seattle living on his boat, a fine 55' Alden ketch named NONAME. The couple had been living aboard for a couple of years and were preparing to sail back to Seattle. They had a car they wanted to sell; I bought it and became the best equipped PFC on Oahu.
      While wandering the docks some more, I walked right up to IDLE HOUR and touched her transom. 
Dwight Long's IDLE HOUR, home to Seattle, WA.
Original photo taken by L. Hockett, 1940.
Donated to the S. P. H. S. archives by Miles McCoy 2012.
There was Dwight Long's old vessel. Her main had been restored to gaff rig and she obviously had been ridden hard and put away wet, for a number of years. She was deteriorating under the rigors of a harsh tropical climate and minimal maintenance. I never met the owner but I saw her sailing a couple of more times around Honolulu. She seemed well suited for sailing the Hawaiian Islands. IDLE HOUR was stout, beamy, fairly deep for her size, and very heavily built with full two-inch plank on heavy double-sawn frames. 
      Well--I spent many contented hours contemplating voyages to far off places while examining IDLE HOUR with the warm Hawaiian trade wind caressing me into boundless daydreaming. I have not heard anything about IDLE HOUR for well over sixty years. I would be surprised if she or her remains exist to this day.
      The end result of years of imagining and dreaming of voyaging to far off places in my own vessel never happened. However, by staying active and elbowing among the sailing community, I was able to complete a variety of ocean racing and cruising trips on several wonderful, wooden vessels to meet and sail with some very able and experienced voyagers.
       There was a gaff rigged ketch named IDLE HOUR sailing in the San Juan Islands in the 1950s. They were employed in the charter business taking out passengers on pleasure trips in local waters. This was not the same IDLE HOUR of which I spoke earlier, owned by Dwight Long. This was larger and better suited to the charter trade. She belonged to Chris Wilkins, a longtime charter skipper. Wilkins went on to have a 45' ketch ORCAS BELLE, designed by Bill Garden and built in Deer Harbor by boatbuilder Chet North. Another Orcas Islander, Tony Lee, was skipper for several years on ORCAS BELLE. 
      In the early 1960s Wilkins' IDLE HOUR was purchased by Carl and Patty MacBrayer who ran her in the summer charter business for several years out of West Sound. MacBrayers sold IDLE HOUR and built a new boat a little larger than IDLE HOUR that had more creature comforts and luxuries for guests. They sailed BONNIE LASSIE for several years, then moved ashore.
     I hope that this is of some interest to you, I enjoyed reminiscing and recalling some of my youth."
Above text by Miles McCoy, West Sound, WA. *  Capt. Long had sailed 30,000 miles, after leaving Seattle, when he sailed up the Thames River. To have IDLE HOUR in first class condition, he decided to winter over and write his book before sailing the Atlantic, homebound. Dwight Long's book was first published in England in 1938 under the title of Sailing All Seas in the IDLE HOUR with a preface by Alan Villiers. Rupert Hart-Davis of London,  picked it up in 1950 and published it as No. 11 in his wonderful Mariners Library series. 
      In the US the book title was changed to Seven Seas on a Shoestring, published by Harper and Bros., 1938. As noted elsewhere on this site, Miles McCoy donated his special volume to the S.P.H.S. complete with notes from his mother that it was his first nautical book, gifted to him in 1941.     
In August 2012 there is another log entry to honor IDLE HOUR; she arrived home to Seattle in 1940. Click here.

     Thanks Miles-- Encore!

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