What A Character

Characters of CamdenGood morning everyone. Do you know any characters, folks who you just can’t forget? Let’s see, a few characters that I will never forget: Major Floyd S Chadwick, USAF Ret., our dearly beloved Camden “Harbor Monitor” Now that man had a quip for everything and I must use a “majorism”, one of his often used witty explanations for life, everyday. Then there is Mary, Sweet Mary, who learned her baking craft from Josephine Day who ran the Trailing Ewe for many, many years before she called it quits at somewhere close to the age of 90. Mary learned how to do a days work in her 25 summers at the Ewe. Mary could do anything in the world without complaining and with a smile on her face. Everyone felt warmed by Mary’s goodness just by standing in the same room with her. My Dad had his moments, walking into the local yacht club like he owned the place. I didn’t find out until I was an adult that we used the launch service for years without actually possessing a membership card. Not a very good role model but he had a certain nerve you kinda had to admire and probably helped him stride confidently (wether he was confident or not) into many difficult situations. And then there is Bruce, as honest as the day is long, as forgiving as the clouds are high and as full of funny stories that redefine the word “embellishment” as the ocean is deep. Many of Bruce’s stories start with, “One day, down at the plant….” There are more characters I could name but you get the point. Undoubtedly you know a few yourself.
cool-summer-job aboard a tallship
Character is earned through hard work and very challenging life experiences. When the Major came out of the Battle of the Bulge during WW II alive he had earned a few stripes, literally and figuratively. No one who ever worked for Josephine Day at the “Ewe” ever left the same as when they arrived. More often than not character is formed, tempered if you will, “under fire”. So that begs the question, how will the up and coming generations find their character. I have been in many sail training situations aboard the schooner with college students and younger adults. More recently I have wondered if young men in particular were going through the moves, looking right for the part but not really grabbing life by the horns and shaking it for all they could. Without having had too much stress in their lives why would they? Finding crew for the schooner is a huge challenge these days and the best crew more often than not come from what I consider the strongest families or in the opposite extreme the hardest family situations from which by the grace of God they have emerged self-reliant. Do you know how many 19 year olds we have had arrive at the boat who have never cooked, cleaned, shopped for food, done their own laundry or otherwise had to fend for themselves emotionally, financially or physically?
working aloft  a tall ship as a seasonal employment
Someone decided to call this Generation Y or “Millenials.” Sociologists have put a pile of labels on these folks. Goodness knows I lacked all sorts of emotional maturity during my 20s, 30s and 40s. Most people wonder about me today. I don’t like labels but what I will say, based on my own experience, is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find young adults with the strength of character to go the unnoticed extra mile, to stand behind their word when making difficult choices, to put in a long days work without having to stop every half hour for a water break or check their Facebook page. And what is up with young men with bad backs?
Don’t get me started!Oooops, too late.
working on a tallship for a seasonal job
At any rate, I am probably sounding like an old geezer by now. That’s OK with me. The point is this. We are looking for a few good men and women who are not afraid of a long days work where back muscles actually get sore, where strength of character is pushed while standing bow watch in the pouring rain, where perseverance is challenged when standing next to a hot wood stove kneading bread in a moving boat with no visible horizon. Crewing on a windjammer is not the easiest summer job but it is the coolest. So if you know someone full of the energy and idealism of youth with a strength of character tested by life experience please send them our way. Applications are available online.

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.


  1. Cap – as you know I always enjoy your blog entries but they seldom touch my heart as this one did. While I never met the Major or Miss Day I did get to know Mary and I think of her often. I surely could have benefited from a summer as a deck hand 45 years ago, perhaps even on the almost brand new Mary Day.

  2. Yes Ed, I miss Mary as well. There is a big hole in my life and I don’t think I am alone. When someone says, “what a character!” they often mean someone who is a standout in a crowd. But not Mary. She was just the opposite but I include her in my list of characters for her ability to be just herself and be quite happy with that. And when I grow up I want to be just like her.

    Have a beautiful day. Be well. Do good.

  3. Mary was a special person. We sailed with her a number of times and we went home praising her cooking abilities on that wonderful wood-burning stove. She worked magic. She was such a gentle person and loved what she did for all of us…taking a quiet pride in her cooking skills…at least when we were around. She made quite an impression. She will always be missed…even by those of us who didn’t know her well. What a blessing!

  4. Great entry Barry. Maybe I’m becoming an old geezer too as I notice the same things with the kids I work with in middle school. I had to give out failing grades to about 40-45% of my sixth grade Social Studies students. Most of them failed not due to any lack of intelligence but due to an unwillingness to make a modest effort. (I’ll give you one guess whose fault their failure was according to many of their parents.) It becomes more difficult with each passing year to maintain my sense of integrity as a teacher. I only put up with the demands and complaints of entitled parents and spineless administrators because of the many former students who return and thank me for being one of the toughest teachers they had. Most say they came away from a year in my class with a sense of pride and of increased self-confidence from having worked hard to meet my expectations for their work. I’m sure that most of the young men and women fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to work with you and Jen aboard the Mary Day feel the same way. Perhaps some of them will go on to work hard and struggle to do something unique with their lives and become the Marys and Floyds of the future. Watch carefully and I think you may see the pendulum start to swing back to values of risk-taking, hard work, and character. I hear many people complaining about what a lazy, entitled, self-obsessed society we’ve become. Maybe we’ve come to a point where we realize how much better we can be.

    Check out this article about the findings of some education researchers: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/parenting/back-to-school/why-kids-need-to-fail-to-succeed-in-school/article4513436/

    Keep up the great work. The world would be a very bland place without characters like you.

  5. While the character swiftly took on a life of its own, moving beyond parody, other animated characters soon took their turn to parody the character. In 1943 Bugs Bunny was featured in a short, Super-Rabbit , which sees the character gaining powers through eating fortified carrots. This short ends with Bugs stepping into a phone booth to change into a real “Superman” and emerging as a U.S. Marine . In 1956 Daffy Duck assumes the mantle of “Cluck Trent” in the short ” Stupor Duck “, a role later reprised in various issues of the Looney Tunes comic book.

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