When we go back to the sea.

“All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea — whether it is to sail or to watch it — we are going back from whence we came.” -President John F. Kennedy, September, 1962

Upon taking office on January 20, 1961, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the youngest person ever elected President of the United States of America. His administration captured the hearts and minds of many in this nation, and to this day, that brief era is still referred to with reverence and respect… a modern day Camelot. Born in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1917, John lived in the shadow of his older brother Joseph Jr. Their father, Joseph Sr., had visions of his eldest son enjoying a career in political office. John intended to pursue other roads in life. From an elite high school John then went to Harvard University, before volunteering to serve in the US Navy during World War II. He was injured in combat when a Japanese destroyer ran down and crushed the PT boat that John commanded. Despite his injuries sustained during that incident, John rescued 10 of the 12 crew members on board and shepherded the survivors to safety, for which he became a decorated war hero. After the war, he envisioned himself a teacher or a historian.

John was not seemingly destined for a life in politics. That path was for his older brother. However, Joseph’s death during a bomber mission over Europe in 1944 meant that John would now carry his family’s expectation of public service in higher office. Elected to the US House of Representatives in 1946 and then the US Senate in 1952, John’s trajectory was seemingly without limit. However, his first experience of political failure came in 1956, when he lost an election at the Democratic Convention to become the Democratic nominee for Vice President. He spent four years regrouping, serving in the Senate, and readying for a run at the highest office in the land. In 1960, after winning the nomination to be the Democratic candidate for President, and enduring a hard-fought campaign against Republican candidate Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy capped his historic rise by winning the election. His brief presidency saw the creation of the Peace Corps, his leadership during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the beginnings of the legal framework that would lead to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, strong prosecution against organized crime, and the signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Serving less than three years in office, Kennedy’s term ended in tragedy with his assassination on November 22, 1963.

On a beautiful July 4th holiday, I set off for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Quincy, Massachusetts, to learn more about the life and service of our 35th President. Planned and built over the course of 16 years, the library and museum opened in 1979. Afterward, I would take another trip that was planned long before the visit to the museum, but would have a strong resonance with the story of President Kennedy, whose greatest joy was life on the sea.

Map of Eastern Massachusetts, with a pin in the location of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Quincy, Massachusetts. If you follow the coast to the northeast, you will come to Gloucester, site of another adventure later on Independence Day.
View of the Boston skyline from the Massachusetts Turnpike.
It was an absolutely gorgeous day for a drive. The skyscraper in the center of the frame is the Prudential Tower, the second tallest building in Boston.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum exterior.
Arrived! The museum was designed by the American architect I.M. Pei. Pei also designed the John Hancock Tower in Boston, the Pyramid at the Louvre in Paris, the Bank of China tower in Hong Kong, and last but not least, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
Picture of school desk with John's report card and letters from the headmaster.
The museum begins with John’s earliest years. This is a desk from Choate, the elite boarding school in Connecticut where he attended high school. If you look closely at his report card, you will see that President Kennedy was a bit of a slacker in high school…
Wall display of John's college years at Harvard.
John found himself in college. In his last year at Harvard, John wrote a thesis on Britain’s failure to rearm before WWII despite evidence of German aggression. He later turned his thesis into the book Why England Slept, which brought John international media attention.
Display with photo of women wearing red and blue dresses with the word KENNEDY on a sash on them. A dress is on display in front of the photo.
Politics were more… decorative… in the 1960s. This dress was worn by one of Kennedy’s supporters during the Presidential election campaign.
Storefront display of home appliances on sale in 1960.
A storefront displaying common home appliances in the early 1960s. Growing up, I remember several of these items in my grandparents’ homes. You haven’t lived until you’ve had coffee from a Sunbeam coffee percolator…
Household items from the 1960s.
Another display of home life in the early 60’s. If you look on the TV, you’ll see a white GE transistor radio. My grandmother gave me that exact model of radio when I was a kid. I wish I still had it.
Mockup of TV studio. A screen in the background is projecting the first Presidential debate of 1960.
A display on the Presidential debate of 1960. The first election of the TV era caught Richard Nixon unprepared. He looked pale and sweaty on camera. Kennedy, meanwhile, embraced this new medium of communication (including wearing makeup). The debate shaped the public’s opinion of Kennedy as someone youthful and energetic.
Text of Kennedy's Inaugural Address.
The text of Kennedy’s Inaugural Address of January 20, 1960, in which he uttered the famous words “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
Section of Inaugural Address with the "ask not" text mentioned in previous image.
And here it is.
Entrance to the section of the museum addressing the Kennedy presidency.
(Cue the music from the TV show The West Wing). The section of the museum that tells the story of the Kennedy Presidency has been designed to look like the interior of the White House.
Main hallway of museum.
Years ago, my Mom took me to the White House for a tour. This museum really makes you feel like you’ve stepped into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
US-Soviet hotline teletype machine.
Although most of us imagine a red phone “hotline” between the United States and the Soviet Union, this teletype machine was the first direct connection. It was installed after the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the lack of direct connection between Kennedy and Soviet Chairman Kruschev meant that messages took up to 12 hours to be delivered between their offices. A 12-hour delay is not exactly ideal during a crisis.
Aerial photograph of Soviet missiles in Cuba.
This aerial photograph shows the deployment of Soviet missiles in Cuba, 90 miles from the beaches of Florida. Never in US history has the nation come so close to nuclear war. Hopefully, we never will again.
Interior of Freedom 7.
Freedom 7 was the first manned US spaceflight, in 1961. The space capsule from that flight is in the museum. The cockpit for the pilot was tiny.
Memo from Vice President John to President Kennedy on the space program.
This memo from Vice-President Lyndon Johnson to President Kennedy explores the possibility of expanding the United States Space Program.
Mannequin of Jackie Kennedy, with a tweed skirt and jacket, on display in a glass case.
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy did not live in her husband’s shadow. Her talent, intelligence, style, and grace is well documented throughout the museum. In addition to her sense of fashion that defined the 1960s, her efforts at preserving the history of the White House were invaluable. She was also, informally, a capable ambassador, charming guests and making even adversaries of the US feel at ease around the President.
Letter from the surviving crew of the Japanese destroyer Amagiri, congratulating President Kennedy on his 1960 election.
This caught my eye. It is a letter of congratulations on Kennedy’s Presidential victory from the surviving crew of the Japanese destroyer Amagiri, the ship that sunk Kennedy’s PT boat in WWII.
Display on Robert Kennedy's involvement with prosecution against organized crime.
An entire room is devoted to Attorney General Robert Kennedy, younger brother of John. The room is a reproduction of his AG office at the Department of Justice. This display highlights the Kennedys’ fight against organized crime, especially the Teamsters Union and its corrupt boss Jimmy Hoffa. As one example of the pervasive corruption in that union, every union member had to buy one of the toy trucks you see here, the profits of which went to the relative of one of the union leaders.
Reproduction of the White House Oval Office.
The highlight for me was this reproduction of Kennedy’s Oval Office. The film on the wall highlights President’s Kennedy’s involvement in the Civil Rights movement, including the desegregation of American schools in the south. The desk in the center is a replica of the Resolute Desk, a gift from the Queen Victoria of England. Built from timbers from the HMS Resolute, it has been used by seven US Presidents.
Panoramic photo of the Oval Office at the museum.
Definitely the highlight of my trip. Also of note are Kennedy’s rocking chair (right) which helped with the chronic back pain he suffered after his injury in WWII, and the Harvard chair (left). The lanterns on the wall are replicas made in 1961 of the ones that Paul Revere used during his ride to warn Lexington and Concord of the coming British invasion. As with everything in the room (except the Resolute desk), these are the actual items that were on display in Kennedy’s White House.
Atrium of Kennedy Library, looking upward toward large American flag.
You emerge from the museum into a glass and steel atrium.
Sailboat Victura on the lawn behind the museum.
Behind the museum is the sloop (a sloop is a type of sailboat) Victura. John F. Kennedy received this boat from his father on John’s 15th birthday. Taught sailing at an early age, John was an avid sailor, winning numerous competitions. John later credited his extensive sailing experience as one of the factors that helped him survive his shipwreck in WWII. The Victura is displayed at the museum during the summer months.
2012 Honda Accord in front of museum.
And of course, a mandatory picture of my car in front of the museum.

Several weeks ago when I attended Sail Boston 2017, I happened by an advertisement for a trip aboard the schooner Thomas E. Lannon. The ship was in attendance at Sail Boston, and seeing it glide through the water under full sail, I was intrigued. Despite numerous boat trips in my life, I have never been on a ship that has moved only by the power of the wind. On Independence Day I met up with some friends in Gloucester, Massachusetts to take a trip on this unique ship. Given President Kennedy’s love of the sea, it seemed fitting to include my adventure aboard the Lannon with this post, recognizing that when we go back to the sea… we are going back from whence we came.

Schooner Thomas E. Lannon at dock.
The Lannon is a schooner, a type of sailing vessel that first appeared in the late 17th century. A schooner features fore-and-aft sails, which run parallel to the hull, rather than perpendicular. Due to its design, it is very fast and maneuverable for a sailing vessel. The Lannon is a 90-foot long schooner that was handmade by its owner in 1996. It is also designed to be crewed by only two sailors, although on our trip today there were five crew members at work.
Bow and bow sprit of the Lannon, with a fishing boat in the background.
If you look past the bow of the Lannon, you can see a fishing vessel in the background. Gloucester’s primary industry is fishing, and the harbor is used mainly by commercial fishing vessels, not pleasure craft.
Blocks and ropes aboard the ship.
I have always been fascinated by the timeless designs of sailing vessels. While newer materials might be used nowadays, transport a sailor from the 18th century to the Lannon, and he or she would easily be able to operate the ship.
Main sail being raised on the Lannon.
The foresail being raised on the Lannon as we get underway. According to a crew member, the sails need to be replaced every 4-5 years.
View of the bow sprit, looking out on the water. A coastline is in the distance.
And we’re underway! It was a very relaxing trip.
Navigation chart on the Lannon.
While the ship is equipped with modern radar and GPS, the crew keeps accurate charts to aid in their navigation.
Sailing vessel at anchor near the coast.
It was a placid day as we sailed through the harbor.
Seagull perched on side of ship.
We even had a special visitor!
Rigging and rope on ship.
The small details of the ship fascinated me.
Looking up at fore and main sails.
The geometric designs of the sails and rigging are striking.
Tarr & Wonson Paint Factory on coast of Gloucester.
As we headed back in, we passed the Tarr & Wonson Paint Factory, built in 1870. Although no longer producing paint, the historic building now houses an oceanographic research institute.
Photograph of three plates of food.
Our journey complete, we sat down for a “sailors lunch” at the Topside Grill, a cool bar and restaurant near the waterfront. I went with the fried haddock sandwich, topped with scallions and bacon (bottom plate). It was absolutely terrific.
Fisherman's Memorial in Gloucester.
After lunch, we walked to the Fisherman’s Memorial. Gloucester is the oldest port in the United States, and fishing has been its primary industry since its founding in 1623.
Stone tablets with names etched, Fisherman's Memorial.
Over 5,600 names are recorded on these tablets at the memorial, listing all of the people who lost their lives fishing off the coast of Gloucester. Commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous jobs you can have… as all these names attest.
Names of the crew of the Andrea Gail, the fishing vessel that sank in 1991.
Many people associate Gloucester with the 1991 hurricane that was later named The Perfect Storm. The events of that storm were chronicled in a book of the same name by Sebastian Junger, which later became a film starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg. Much of the focus of the film and book centered on the crew of the commercial fishing boat Andrea Gail, all six of whom lost their lives in the storm.
2012 Honda Accord in front of docks in Gloucester.
Gloucester is no beach resort. It has the gritty, well-used feel of an old fishing town. It’s an awesome place to visit!

Before I close, I wanted to highlight one last cool item. My friend Steve from New Hampshire recently upgraded his ride, and I wanted to make quick mention of it. His trusty steed, a 2008 Honda Accord LX-P sedan, had rolled 160,000 trouble-free miles over the last nine years. It was finally time to upgrade, though, and I heartily approve of his choice of vehicle- a 2017 Honda Ridgeline Sport! It looks fantastic. I’ll be eagerly await a test-drive. (Ahem).

2017 Honda Rigeline
Can’t wait to get behind the wheel!

This was truly a wonderful Independence Day weekend. I am grateful to be lisving in a part of the nation so rich in history, culture, and new opportunities for adventure. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Quincy, Massachusetts, is open every day from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. Admission prices are: Adults- $14, College Students with ID and Seniors 62+- $12, Veterans and youth ages 13-17- $10, and children 12 and under can enter for free. Two hour sails aboard the Thomas E. Lannon are $40 for adults, $35 for seniors, and $27.50 for children 16 and under. You can also schedule the Lannon for private charters, corporate events, weddings, and other services. I hope you enjoyed this lengthy and in-depth exploration of two very cool locations in Massachusetts, and thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!

‘Til next time.

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “When we go back to the sea.

  1. Sweet Ridgeline – congrats to Steve. So I can’t zoom close enough, what were Kennedy’s grades on that report card? Loved seeing all those 1960s artifacts on display too. Cool visit! Hope you had a great holiday.

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    1. I’ll pass on your congrats! If I remember correctly, I don’t think he had any marking period averages above 80%. The teachers’ notes were all the same: bright, charismatic, but doesn’t apply himself.

      Glad you enjoyed the tour. It was a fun pair of adventures! Hope you had a good 4th as well.

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