From Grandma’s Album… Two Boats – Nin-Ci-Gal and Atalanta
A shore summer place meant boats, and two boats were the reason we were looking in 1932 for waterfront property to house them. First, was the 28-foot launch co-owned by the four brothers: Daddy, Jerry, Jim and Tony. Next was a log canoe of the same length, Potapka. This was Dad’s boat for fishing that he motorized with our old model-T engine. We found the shore place and started building our little cottage, but what about the two teenagers? Where was their boat? Helen wanted a row boat and Charles a sailboat. The house was finished, Dad was working again, so in 1934 another great project and learning experience for our family loomed into reality!
The plan: a 14-foot craft with a tiny bow seat, a triple-wide stern seat, the widest seat for rowers, an oaken keel, cypress floor-boards and sides, and topside oaken gunnels and oar-locks. Finally, to finish her off properly we obtained a can of forest green marine paint.
We set up shop on the shore side of the little house that we had built. Daddy and I spent weeks cutting & shaping boards and then nailing or screwing them into place as appropriate. We had run out of the nails that had been so carefully scavenged and straightened for the house, so we had to buy some, along with special screws that wouldn’t rust in the slightly brackish water of Bear Creek. We must have steamed the wood for the sides, but I don’t really remember that part, just the joy of watching her take shape from a pile of assorted bits and pieces, rising through the mess and shavings of construction to the final step of slapping on the paint, making certain that every last crack and cranny was filled so that she would last. And last she did! She was still sound when we refurbished her for my children, in 1967, so that the fun and skills were not lost and a new generation of rowers was created.
She was a beauty and so easy to propel, hence the name of the speedy greek hera, Atalanta. We spent many hours rowing down the creek to pick wild elderberries for Maminka’s jams, to the Boy Scout picnic area for the bonfires, drifting in the middle of the creek for diving and swimming in the warm clear water or pretending to fish while we actually dozed in the long afternoons, or trailing her on a painter as we soft-crabbed, wading through the knee-to waist deep water, searching in the seagrass for the “softies” that we could pick up with our bare hands and set in a water-filled bucket in a covered basket in the bottom of the boat, hoping not to disturb a “buster” who might nip us with his still-hard claws.
The “piece de resistance” were the highly varnished oars that Dad present me when he inspected our handiwork and deemed it A-OKAY!
Charles’s Nin-Ci-Gal was next, a 16-footer with a center-board, and a breeze for our daily run from Todd’s Point to Flood’s Pier. She was white with a red stripe, a cat-rig, sporting a 27-foot varnished mast, a beauty.
One problem arose. The very young male neighbors, fascinated by our sanding of the mast, wanted to join the fun and so lined up every morning hoping to be granted a section to sand. Discreetly, Charles obliged, with his hand on theirs.
Like Atalanta, Nin-Ci-Gal took a lot of time and effort. He picked a name that he thought was from Norse mythology, always an obsession for him.
In 1934, still in the Depression, we couldn’t afford a sail maker’s skill, but dear Mother came to the rescue with white flour bags! She saved them carefully, washed them well and “popped” the seams, ironing them smooth.
When we came home in the fall to our Baltimore city house, she ripped, cut and sewed them into a huge mainsail and jib. She also attached by hand the rings that traveled up and down the mast for raising and lowering the mains’l.
So during the following years we sailed her around and back and up and down, tacking into the wind, running down wind and occasionally jibing the sail, which caused some large “goose eggs” on our unsuspecting heads.
Later on, we obtained a regular set of sails with pockets for the battens, but canvas or flour bags, she was “yar”!
Charles went on to bigger and fancier boats of all kinds: speedboats, power cruisers, larger and larger sailboats and finally his Sovereign of the Seas, a truly lovely 36 foot ketch that he cruised for years on the Bay and even on the Atlantic, but his love for sailing and boats was nurtured there on the waters of Bear Creek and the ground of our little shore place.
Page added and published 8/24/18 (C)M. Bartlett
Last updated 8/24/18
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