> US SAILING Media > Sailor of the Week > 2010 > Sailor of the Week - September, 2010 > Sheldon Whitehouse
Sailor of the Week: August 26 - Sept. 1
Last Thursday at the India Point Park Community Boating Center in Providence, R.I., Senator Sheldon Whitehouse participated in US SAILING’s Youth Leadership Initiative, a pilot program created to teach life lessons to kids through the myriad of skills involved in learning to sail. US SAILING partnered with several local Providence youth programs and sailing organizations dedicated to fostering alternative recreational and educational opportunities. On the final day of the four-week program, Senator Whitehouse, an avid sailor himself, joined these youth sailors on Narragansett Bay for a day of sailing.
Funded by a grant from the John B. and Nelly Llanos Kilroy Foundation, US SAILING’s Youth Leadership Initiative began on Monday, August 2 and wrapped-up on Thursday, August 26. The 10 to 14 year olds participating in the program are enrolled in the Fox Point Boys & Girls Club and the Washington Park Community Center. The four weeks of sailing lessons were hosted by the Community Boating Center at India Point Park and conducted by US SAILING certified instructors.
For information on how you can help support US SAILING’s Youth Leadership Initiative, please contact Chase Hogoboom at email@example.com.
The Rhode Island Senator lives in Newport with his wife, Sandra, a marine biologist and environmental advocate, and their two children… In October of 2000, Whitehouse wrote a compelling story for the Providence News Journal that chronicled him and his father’s relationship with a Herreshoff sailboat named Osprey.
The Boys of 1940 on the BayPICTURE A GRAY and foggy day at the end of the summer of 1940. Osprey, a Herreshoff "S"-class sailboat, slips quietly through a still and muted Newport harbor. She is leaving her summer mooring for the boatyard where she would be wintered. One brother is at Osprey's helm, another is at the wheel of the family car, driving around to pick him up at the boatyard. For each, this is a bittersweet ceremony of the end of summer and return to school.
by Sheldon Whitehouse
Providence News Journal - October 10, 2000
by Sheldon Whitehouse
Providence News Journal - October 10, 2000
For the brothers, Osprey gave freedom from the social demands of Newport the dressing up, the trite adult conversation, the regimented days and a glorious relief from their disciplined schooling. On her, the sunny Bay was theirs to command, their choices were their own to make, and they had no one to answer to but the wind and the sea. They sailed her fast and well, winning many of the races they entered. In modern parlance, the Whitehouse boys and Osprey were "big dogs" on the Bay.
The Osprey was a lovely boat, swift in quiet air, and agile. She carried a small jib that rode on a boom and a traveler, and a huge mainsail that filled the sky below a curved-back wooden mast. She had the lovely sweeping coamings the Herreshoff yard was known for. When Charlie and George Whitehouse left Osprey at the boatyard at the end of that summer of 1940, I don't know what they foresaw, but Charlie was 18, and George was 17, and the Germans were in Paris and the Battle of Britain was raging.
Both boys volunteered for Naval Aviation, and both trained at Pensacola to be Navy pilots. Both were sent as young aviators to the Pacific Theater to fly high-powered fighter planes and dive bombers. Both flew bravely and well, but only one came home. My uncle George's plane was shot down over Legaspi in the Philippines, and the last of him his squadron mates saw was his plane spiraling down into the island. A memorial stone to George rests now in a Portsmouth churchyard, and his name is engraved on a plaque in front of Newport City Hall. That's it. My father went to the island after the war, but found nothing to bring home.
Osprey was sold during the war by my grandfather to a family whose younger children raced her, and then she was sold again and lost to our knowledge. The war, and then college, and a career in government and a young family swept my father along their currents. He never owned a sailboat again.
A few years ago, a man named Michael McCaffrey spotted the remains of an S-class Herreshoff in a boatyard in Taunton. He and a friend bought her practically as junk, but it was a providential purchase. Michael's brother is the best restorer of Herreshoff S-class boats in the world, and Michael had plans for this battered hulk. They went to work, carefully rebuilding, repairing and replacing, and also researching, to see who she was. She was Osprey.
This summer, my father returned to Newport and, after an interval of 60 years, set foot again on the deck of his and his brother's boyhood boat. She had been well restored. He noticed a few differences fancy modern sails replaced the canvas he knew, new jam cleats had been installed but he knew her. My father is a fit man, and strong, from the dozens of hours he spends every week in the saddle, but he is nonetheless an old man. The interval between when he bounded off Osprey as a youth at summer's end, and when he stepped rather more carefully back on her five dozen summers later, struck me hard. So much had happened.
He met my mother and married her and raised a family; he served his country with distinction and courage in conflicts and troubles all around the world; he became a valiant and renowned defender of the landscape that he loves in Virginia. He remarried, adding step-children and step-grandchildren to a burgeoning crop of sons-and daughters-in-law and grandchildren. But the most important event in that time was the one that separated him from Osprey World War II.
As I sat recently at the dedication of the new Veterans Memorial at the veterans' cemetery in Exeter, I looked out at many men of his generation men who as boys had literally saved the world from tyranny. The price was high (read Stephen Ambrose, if you don't know). And the boys were so young, jumping off summer sailboats, and out from behind plows, and away from city stickball games, to fight and die. Now, even the survivors of that great conflict are leaving us, as the great tide of life sweeps that generation into its dying years. For me, a boyhood boat helped make that connection come alive, and for that, I am eternally indebted to Mike McCaffrey and the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport. They made a moment of magic for my family, and reopened a book to a long-turned and near-forgotten page.
That page haunts me with a question: What can we possibly ask of ourselves, we who are now grown men and women, to match what was asked of those boys of 1940.