By Matt Cline, WBFV Board Member, July 9, 2022
The needs of veterans as well as the desire of many to serve them knows no boundaries. All across the United States, there are more and more veterans service organizations beginning to realize that they have something to offer veterans who have been changed by their service, whether it is in peacetime or by far more drastic circumstances in combat. Wooden Boats For Veterans started its commitment to serving veterans in the San Francisco Bay area. But always, there is a vision to do as much as possible. This month, WBFV’s took another step in expanding its mission outside the San Francisco Bay area.
My association with WBFV’s is a role I cherish, both for being able to contribute to the well-being of our veterans and their families as well as restoring and maintaining classic and ever-more rare wooden boats. It has always been obvious to me veterans and wooden boats have so much in common. Wooden boats and veterans need each other because they can both take care of each other. With the help of WBFV’s, I am able to take that a step further here in Ohio.
With my YouTube channel, “The Salvation Navy" showing people how to do repairs and maintain classic sailboats, I met someone who was struggling to continue to sail her beloved sailboat while dealing with health issues that were affecting her ability to do so. While some of the modifications I helped her with allowed my friend to continue to sail for a while longer, it had come time to find the boat a new steward. While not in the strictest sense a wooden boat itself, it is a wonderful design that is of classic wooden boat lineage and a pedigree from a classic naval architect. My friend’s boat, "Seneca Lee” was designed by the well-known and respected naval architect, Halsey Herreshoff. He is the grandson of the venerable Captain Nathaniel Herreshoff, who designed all of the America's Cup boats around the turn of the century. The family name is synonymous with exquisite design, elegance and performance.
A third-generation naval architect in the family himself, Halsey was commissioned to design several small boats for the yacht construction company, Norwak and Williams of Bristol, Rhode Island. While the hulls were made of fiberglass and the mast of aluminum, he insisted that everything else on the boats were to be as traditional as possible, with bronze fittings and ubiquitous varnished wood work. One of which was the “Eagle.” It is an homage’ to the New England Friendship Sloop. A beautiful little 22’ gaffed-rigged sailboat with a staysail and even a top sail. I personally own and am working to restore one of his Eagle designs that was rescued from the chainsaw. They were very few produced and regrettably even fewer remain after almost 50 years.
With my desire to try and serve veterans in my area here in Ohio, both on my local inland large lake where I sail as well as surrounding larger bodies of water like Lake Erie, my friend's boat suits itself perfectly to taking out a small group to enjoy a beautiful day of sailing. This mission also has been enthusiastically received by my local yacht club at Indian Lake. We are in the process of working out all of the details, but everyone on the board is looking forward to being able to do some wonderful community outreach. It’s a cause everyone instantly saw was good and a worthwhile endeavor.
The plan will be to do some minor work on the boat to have it ready for the 2023 sailing season at Indian lake as well as begin to build up contacts, relationships with veteran’s groups and schedule veterans for sailing opportunities at Indian lake in Ohio. For the time being, several members of the Indian Lake Yacht Club have offered to take veterans out on their own sail boats until the newly acquired "Seneca Lee” is ready to be used by several trained skippers as the program's designated boat for taking out veterans and their families. "Seneca Lee" has resided for all of her life in Cape Cod and she's being transported soon back to my backyard boat yard here in Ohio for some minor woodwork repair, varnishing, and just a little TLC to bring her back to grand condition. She will be a shining jewel, restored to her former glory very soon and ready to be of service to those who have served our nation.
While presumably primarily operating from the Indian Lake Yacht Club, the vessel is trailerable so that we can extend sailing programs as well as being a good outreach ambassador for wooden boats for veterans and places like Lake Erie for various veterans and memorial day events, like the Cleveland Tall Ships festival and more. It is our hope as well to bring much attention to the efforts of WBFV’s in San Francisco by being a charter program representative in the region.
Thanks to Wooden Boats For Veterans for sponsoring this outreach project, the "Seneca Lee" has been purchased and will be chartered as one of WBFV's fleet. This is an organization that is a living and vibrant example of their desire to serve veterans with unique experiences of sailing wooden boats. Everyone who is a part of it believes deeply in its mission and making it happen on a day by day basis. While regrettably not able to be more of a hands-on presence for wooden boats for veterans in San Francisco, I am honored to be able to take on this mission here in the Midwest. We will certainly be publishing more updates on the progress of the restoration and the sailing programs development as they progress. Thank you again to my friends and colleagues at Wooden Boats For Veterans for believing in me and supporting the resources to make this happen. I can promise you that if you invest your time and resources with this extraordinary organization and its people, you will be inspired as well.
- Editor's note: The entire board of WBFV is grateful for Matt's tireless efforts to open up sailing to veterans in the Midwest. His perseverance in putting this together was fantastic, and we can't wait to see what happens next!
Terry founded WBFV in 2014 to build a community of veterans and their families around wooden boats.
Service, Sailing, & Community