Posted by: nauticalchronicles | August 17, 2015



Just a Bunch of Dinghies

Do you remember the line from the Beatles’ “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album that goes “It was twenty years ago today; Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play…”? That song has very little to do with this story other than:

  • Music and boating are integral parts of each other; you can’t have one without the other, and
  • Our “Run to the Crescent” (aka: The Dinghy Run) just completed its 19th year. As part of the original trio of boats that began this “tradition” on the Merrimack River back in 1997, we think we may call it quits on its twentieth anniversary next year; maybe someone else will take the lead and keep this event alive in the future; it would be well worth it.

Each year, Newburyport, MA has Yankee Homecoming Week. It is always held the last week of July and includes the two weekends. This is a great draw for visiting boaters and has grown over the years. The week’s events culminate with an outstanding display of fireworks on the last Saturday of the event. The Merrimack River waters are loaded with anchored and moored boats to witness this event. Reminiscent of our trips to the Charles River for the July 4th display, Newburyport harbor becomes a maze of various sized vessels making our “boating weekend”, as local slip-holders, a stay-at-home type of pause from our normal lets-get-going, seek-and-travel type of outing.

Nineteen years ago this past Saturday, August 1st, Ken and Julie of the “Julie V” invited Paul and Deb of “Absolutly Two” and Louise and me from “HalfMine” to join them on what turned out to be a voyage of epic proportions, by inflatable raft, up the Merrimack River thirteen miles to Haverhill, MA, to visit his various haunts; an instructional tour of Haverhill. One of those haunts, of which is he a member, is the Crescent Yacht Club. Since the big boats were locked in place in Newburyport due to the festivities, and since we wanted to be back for the fireworks, this seemed to everyone to be a viable boating alternative for the day.

Sunscreen was liberally applied, bathing suits were donned and beverages were loaded into coolers. Our trio of inflatables took to the water around 9:00 AM with no ambitions other than returning by 9:00 PM for the fireworks. As is usually the case with these “great ideas”…we were naive as to what was in store for us.

We made the run to Haverhill in just under three hours. We made some discoveries along the way: we needed to bring more than four beverages apiece; we needed to bring an empty red solo cup; two and  three-gallon gas tanks were not large enough for this voyage; a six-horse Johnson should be at least 9.9 HP minimum; foam seats covers on the wood dinghy seats would be a plus; seatbelts would also be a plus; regardless of the weather forecast, rain gear is recommended; always bring a floating, neoprene tow rope; and finally, never, ever go too fast over the wake of another boat.

We were very lucky on this initial voyage that the weather was agreeable and that on the return trip we had a low tide in the river allowing for swimming on the sandbars which was a welcome diversion from driving the boats for this distance (since we had no foam seat covers). We made it back by 5:00 PM. We were also lucky that this was a pleasant and memorable journey; enough so that we would like to do the same thing again next year…and so the “tradition” was born.

Kenny had introduced us to all the folks at the Crescent Yacht Club. They had enjoyed our visit and our stories of the trip up. The year following our initial visit, Kenny, as the club member, was not able to go with us, but we had convinced some other “great pretenders” to try out this new use of a nice day on the water, and The Crescent had agreed to allow us to return though we weren’t members. Five rafts made the second trip for music, cold drinks and $1 hotdogs. Once again, the voyage turned out to be of epic proportions. This was the occasion on which I discovered that going too fast over the wake of another boat had, as yet, undiscovered consequences. Perry and Dot of “Off Duty” were following us when the event occurred. I remember his exact words to Dot: “look; Brown just bounced out of the boat!” Interestingly enough, my mate sitting in front of me never noticed I was missing; my lanyard was not attached to the motors kill switch so the boat continued for quite some time before she realized I was no longer with it (or her). These are the types of lessons needed to learn what not to do when boating; I was lucky no damages were done, and we all learned… “We won’t do that again” (right!).

By 2000, we had grown the event to include eight boats and thought it would be a nice idea to have T-shirts for this now-annual trek. Louise, as a classroom elementary art teacher, had acquired a fair quantity of T’s she could use as smocks for the kid’s painting lessons. She, in fact, had more than she needed. One of her parents had donated a quantity of left over shirts from the 1st annual Amesbury Pig Roast; sixteen to be exact. They were of varying sizes and were all nicely lettered; they were bright orange and were perfect for “The Run”. Unfortunately, some of the sizes did not exactly fit some of the bodies. With the addition of shirts, the annual run truly became an event.

By 2004, the event had grown to twenty-five boats with over fifty participants, all wearing coordinated T-shirts. The Crescent Yacht Club had continued to host our visits as well as put up with our antics. We now provided shirts for our hosts as well as our participants. We also needed to charge, minimally, just to cover the costs. Our original founding members had changed marinas which now allowed for “word-of-mouth” advertising to spread to a larger number of folks. Of course, with the increased number of participants, the antics increased, the music increased, games were created…the reputation of our event was spreading and individuals in the group photos were becoming less and less recognizable as the cameras needed to be further and further away.

By 2010, we had to give up the “two, free-drink” coupons we gave each year with the shirts; a minor infraction by one of our participants occurred on the return trip involving the local constabulary which necessitated this action…another lesson learned. On the up side though, by 2004 we had begun making regular contributions to the Susan G. Komen organization for their efforts into breast cancer research; two of our close boating friends had recently lost their daughter to this disease. Because of these contributions, many boaters who didn’t even attend the event bought shirts in support of the cause.

Unfortunately, this year’s event, 2015, was also bittersweet. Just weeks before our scheduled event, we lost a long-time participant, a long-time boater, a captain and friend. Bill Casey from River’s Edge Marina lost his two-plus year fight with Multiple Myeloma. He was 59, had always been active at work, in sports and boating. Bill and Pam of “Sea n’ Sea” had not missed an event since they began participating fourteen years ago. This year’s run was dedicated to Bill and to Dana Farber’s research efforts to combat this terrible disease. Captain Bill…please rest in peace in that “one particular harbor” Jimmy Buffett told us about.

The 2015 “Run to the Crescent” garnered:

  • A record number of boats, 71, made this Voyage of Epic Proportions.
  • A record number of boaters, 225+, were in attendance at The Crescent Yacht Club on Saturday.
  • A record number of T-shirts, 375, were sold.
  • A record amount of money, $4,800, was contributed to the Dana Farber Multiple Myeloma research unit…in memory of Captain Bill Casey.

Special thanks go out to all who participated in this event this year, and especially to The Crescent Yacht Club in Haverhill for their contribution and for allowing us to continue this tradition which we began twenty years ago next July 30th, 2016. All are welcome to join us next year; you can’t miss us; we’ll be the large boating group gathered in front of the Newburyport Yacht Club in the Merrimack River in our inflatables…playing “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band” and “It Was Twenty Years Ago Today”.

Captain Robert Brown

First Mate Louise

the little man

2001  2015

original mates 2004  Founding mothers 2015

Pig Roast 2000  T-shirts 2015

Crescent Yacht Club 2015  back at the docks after

room full 2015  Capt Bill & mate Pam



  1. Thank you Bob for writing such a wonderful piece! Friends, family and memories…nothing better…

  2. Great story, great fun, Thank you for memories and a great day!

  3. Thanks Bob for such a nice tribute!

  4. Bravo! Well done as always. Great fun, great friends, great cause.

  5. A hart warming trip down memory lane; hopefully, knock on wood, I’ll make the 20th. instead of sacking out in the hospital.

    All’s well, see you at the party, jug in hand.

    Together Again



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