It’s hard to beat a sailing vacation on the Chesapeake Bay

by Phil Burgess, Unabridged from the Life section of the Annapolis Capital, Sunday August 10, 2014

Unabridged from my Bonus Years column in the Lifestyle section of The Sunday Capital, Annapolis, Maryland

Somebody once said that retirement is like a permanent vacation.

Whoever said that deserves the anonymity he enjoys today. Reason: The unknown author either had no experience with a real vacation or he didn’t know any of the retired people I know.

This old saw came to mind this week because I am a “retired” person — or sort of. Like so many others, I retired (twice), did a reboot and went back to work. I am still working — some paid work and some volunteer work, some old career, some new career. But my time is fully occupied, at least 40 hours a week, so I still take vacations.

The difference now is I take more vacations — a week here, a week there, and often even a month around Christmas and the new year in a warmer climate.

In talking to hundreds of “retired” folks, I know I’m not alone in this. In fact, frequent vacations are the new normal for many of those still in the go-go years of “retirement” — or those nearing the transition from go-go to slow-go years. But like so many others, I am still a long way from the no-go, permanent vacation time of life.

I think it was Will Rogers who said, “…the best part of a vacation is not so much to be resting yourself, as to see all the other fellows busy working.”

This summer we are taking a week of “resting ourselves” by sailing the Upper Bay of the Chesapeake with the Sailing Club of the Chesapeake, an association of boaters that will celebrate its 70th anniversary this autumn.

The SCC has a long history, reaching back to September 1944 when three Annapolis area sailing enthusiasts got together and formed the club.

Today the SCC has nearly 200 members — mostly from Maryland but also from Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. Those 200 members have nearly 150 boats, both sailing vessels and power boats.

The SCC is distinguished in many ways. One is the annual Race for the Broom. In the fall of 1951, the SCC challenged the Gibson Island Yacht Squadron to a team race to be sailed in cruising boats of approximately the same size.

The winner’s trophy: A broom.

The race continues to this day, and surely holds the record for the longest continuing team/match race between two clubs on the bay.

Another is its international outreach. In 1976, for the bicentennial of America’s Declaration of Independence, the SCC invited members of England’s Royal Yachting Association to join in a “No Hard Feelings” cruise. A positive response led to the largest and most elaborate summer cruise in the club’s history.

According to the SCC historian, “More than 400 participants — including 62 British guests — embarked on 89 yachts.”

In 2012, a second cruise called “No Hard Feelings II” wa held to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.

The club’s international outreach extends beyond the Mother Country. In 1992, following the end of the Cold War, the SCC and the Russian Embassy co-hosted a gathering at the Russian dacha on the Corsica River — bringing good food, good music and good camaraderie as members anchored their boats in the inlet to go ashore for the festivities.

According to the SCC historian, “It was a resounding success (and) both groups came away with a new and warm appreciation for each other.” So much so that the event has been repeated many times since.

Though the SCC rules say you must have a sailing vessel when you join, transvesselites — people who shift from sail to power — remain members in good standing even after they go to the dark side, which is something that many do in their bonus years. I know that’s true because Mary Sue and I are transvesselites, having shifted to power after 40 years of sailing.

Besides, as one wag put it, when you are boating on the Chesapeake, notorious for its all-too-light summer breezes, a sailboat is simply a power boat with a tall mast.

Whether sail or power, SCC members value the beauty of the bay and share the value of “messing about in boats,” to borrow a phrase from “The Wind and the Willows” by British storyteller, the late Kenneth Grahame.

Though SCC members span the adult age categories, there are more than a few in their bonus years or approaching their bonus years. Several served in the military, flying airplanes in war zones or flying a desk in the Pentagon. There are accountants, former airline pilots, physicians, teachers, dentists, civil servants — different people with different backgrounds and experiences.

But they are bound together by their respect for each other amplified by shared experiences and a love for boats and the water. And most of them are continuing to work in some capacity. And for those who have transitioned to their slow-go years, they still work to keep their boat in shape.

As for the boats, Grahame observed, “In or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do.”

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