People Who've Inspired Us

Sparrow on the horizon

It’s OFFICIAL! Transfer of ownership of SPARROW, a classic Marshall 22′ catboat for picnic charters on the Swansboro waterfront 2013.

In 1997, 15 years ago I began a journey with a vessel along the Carolina coast with my two children. We intended to give other sailing kids a sense of their seafaring heritage. That journey turned into flotillas, camp workshops, teacher staff development, national conference speaker invitations and cross country presentations about the maritime arts.

But all that came to a halt this past year when my Mom’s condition worsened and my Father was holding on~
After the worst emotional storm of my life, my Mom passed on June 15th…..

She had been lost for some time suffering from alzheimers. It took me a couple months to mourn her passing and not sailing before her spirit awakened in me a new vision.

Upon one of our last conversations, I asked her, “if you could go anywhere and do anything right now, what would you do?” and she said, “go sailing“.

Mom on deck

Although her mind was lost to the disease, the mere fact that she could muster up a reply such as this was remarkable when most of her hours were spent either in bed or sitting out in the garden watching the sparrows for hours while Dad tended to the gardening. She found some solace in watching those sparrows… in her final days, Dad placed her hospital bed up close to the window so she could see out and continue to watch the sparrows feeding from the garden gazebo.

You see, sailors have an old saying, that when a sailor is lost at sea, sparrows will come and carry their soul to heaven……..and that’s exactly what they did~

So that bright fall day as I had my early morning walk in the woods I felt her spirit come over me and stir my soul…..we were going sailing, still.

We (Kelly Belle & I) decided to take a road trip that morning up to Oriental, the sailing capital of North Carolina to rejuvenate our passion.

Kerry Belle sailing

Thought we might find a sailor or two and a few boats to look at, we even stopped by the local brokers yard to look at an interesting old boat, and then moved on. We decided to stop down by the ramp access and to our surprise there were two interesting catboats at the dock and a curious man climbing under a fence to access one of them. We followed his lead and caught his attention on the dock…..I called out, “so how do you like your catboat?

An hour later, after making introductions and talking furiously about catboats and what makes them so special, I admitted to him that I was on a somewhat of a search for a catboat. He instantly told me of one that he had seen in an ad that was lying up in little Washington….he said if he weren’t so busy that day, he would go check her out himself.

So I took the universe for what it was playing out in front of me and headed to little Washington, specifically, McCotters Marina, a place that was on my list of stops when out on Sunday drives looking at boats.

I pulled into McCotters and there she was…….I felt a strong urgency to climb right aboard, finding a rickety old ladder and tying Kelly Belle to the hull stands. Could it be true, was this providence happening….had Mom led me to this rare find!?!?!

I called the broker on the card to inquire and the mystery boat search had begun! She was listed as a ’73 custom cat, but little did I know, with a little research, I was to find that this little sweetheart was a rare classic find from the New England coast…..a Marshall 22.

Weeks later, after a wonderful sea trial held up only by a hurricane, she and I had bonded and several other folks made our acquaintance congratulating us on our contract. Catboat lovers came out of the woodwork (universe) telling us wonderful stories of their love of catboats and why they were so special. Once I released the plan to use her for a picnic charter service in Swansboro, it has been a magical line of folks appearing in all forms of circumstances and encouraging our new venture. WoW.

So today, SPARROW was officially commissioned into the Wallace Charter Service and activity surrounds her like a Belle going to the Ball. She sorely needed someone to come along and give her ‘tender loving care’ and I, I knew my Mom had led me here and we were going to bring the joy of sailing to even more folks for years to come.

Mom always said that one day, if she ever won the lottery (although she never bought a ticket), she would buy me a dreamboat….and sure enough….she did……her lottery was won in heaven and I found my dreamboat.

Thanks Mom.

This article was published on December 12, 2012 in Suzi Wallace’s blog.

About Suzi Wallace

I grew up sailing the Great Lakes, cruising, racing, restoring and eventually began a free-lance career of giving back to the marine industry as a seafaring artisan/designer/illustrator and educator.

I lived aboard and cruised on a 41’ trimaran raising two beautiful ‘sweet pea’ swabs and continue to race beach cats and classic wooden skiffs but will always love the intimacy and adventure of a small boat set out to sea.

Suz writes about those sweet sails and much more on her blog.

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