My first memories of sailing were with my parents, working on wooden boats that they owned and sailing on the bay. Later we moved to Sausalito and lived aboard a John Alden cutter. I remember really loving working with wood and learning to have pride in your work. For me it’s more than processing material, it’s about knowing where the material comes from. It’s about understanding the different natures of different woods. I’ve had the great satisfaction of building a 12-foot wooden boat and seeing her come together, the thrill when you can see her sweet, sheer line, and then the great pleasure of launching her in the sea, her natural environment, the place she was intended to be. It’s an amazing feeling sailing a boat that you’ve built with your own hands.
With wooden boats, the wood comes full circle from being alive in the forest to being alive on the water with another hundred years or more of life ahead of her. I have a particular love for Clover, built along the lines of Bristol Channel cutters. To serve veterans, I wanted a boat that was strong and seaworthy and had a gaff rig. She’s built as a yacht so that she’s got dry and warm accommodation below and can take a sea and go further afield than smaller boats.
There’s something quite remarkable about being in a wooden environment at sea. It feels like an extension of yourself in a way; like it’s your second skin, keeping you safe on the water. A wooden boat is the closest thing humans can build to an animal; it has wings, and it flies over the water. It swims, and when you get it up to speed its rigging hums away like playing the strings of an instrument.
It seems like no coincidence that I’ve chosen this path in life to sail with veterans aboard wooden boats. When I look back at my family my great grandfather was in the British Army in WWI, and my grandfather was in the Irish Defense Force. My father was a master mariner in the British Merchant Navy. I served in the US Navy as an aviator; and my oldest son serves in the Marines today. I feel lucky to have learned from my family and to have been able to follow my passion, and I hope to be able to pass this on to others.
Veterans of a uniformed service are an often overlooked demographic in our society, but most Americans can claim to have one in their families. There is a silent crisis affecting Veterans, causing on average fifteen of them each day to take their own lives. This loss of hope and faith is silently killing our national treasure, those who have served to protect all of us.
Hope is the key product at WBFV. I am reminded of Scott Callahan's words in his book Adrift; 76 Days at Sea in a Raft; "Substantive and functional hope is not just passive wishful thinking but is something one creates through shunning denial and embracing reality, then taking small achievable steps, no matter how difficult, that can build towards the longer and larger goal”. I believe the sea offers human beings the opportunity to experience calm, become educated in the marine world around us, learn to master wind and water, experience the simple pleasure of bringing boats back to life, and do so in community and fellowship. Here we lift up Veterans, and give them an opportunity to be educators at sea.
We at WBFV believe that wooden boats in particular admirably support this mission. They have a soul all their own, which is metaphorical in many ways to the human soul. A wooden boat is a creation; it is formed and shaped and lovingly cared for by human hands; it requires sacrifice to maintain in healthy condition, and demands a destination to have purpose. So too does each one of us.
Terry founded WBFV in 2014 to build a community of veterans and their families around wooden boats.
Service, Sailing, & Community