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| Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Jason Miller | Ken Kellar | Patricia A. Kelly | Cindy A. Rose |


As Long as We Remember...

May 19, 2016

Saluting Sailors on Maritime Day

Harry M. Covert

Amid magnificent rolling hills and farms throughout Frederick County there are not lots of conversations about ocean-going vessels and those who serve or have served in maritime endeavors. It is entirely appropriate to alert the public about Sunday celebrations of National Maritime Day.


Fascination with big boats began when I enjoyed sailing talk of neighbors. I relished several years sailing up and around the Chesapeake Bay with a 27-foot twin-engine yacht. It was called a yacht, but that sounds a little bit snooty, of course. Facts are facts. I did enjoy summer weeks at Shady Oaks Marina in West End, Maryland, even passing the Coast Guard class for which I am proud.


Transparency forces a note I grew up in Tidewater Virginia, where the world’s greatest harbor – Hampton Roads – is king. Across the way, there’s the naval base in Norfolk, the air station and a shipbuilding company. But the world famous facility quite naturally is in my hometown where the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company kept people working, building great ships, including the SS United States liner and nuclear submarines and ships.


Matriculating to the Free State, I took advantage of the waterways and immensely enjoyed sailing around the South River near the Naval Academy and in an around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, often to Baltimore and Annapolis for treats at Inner Harbor, Fells Point and Orioles baseball presentations.


As a history buff, I got familiar with the World War II Liberty Ship, the SS John W. Brown. This magnificent ship was built in 1942, served honorably as a merchant ship of the U. S. Merchant Marine. Two other liberty ships remain. The Brown was first a cargo ship carrying supplies and then used as a limited carrier from 450 to 600 troops.


National Maritime Day is a good time to remember and remind folks of the incredible services when the world changed and continues to change. Joys of life in the modern world can be attributed to the shipping industry.


Too often the Maritime industry is forgotten, except for the founding of the nation at Jamestown or the landing at Plymouth. Thousands of merchant ships were sunk in the Atlantic during WWII. They were loaded with supplies to feed the British and other Europeans.


Interest in boats is natural. It was second nature to us Virginians. As a young reporter, I covered the launching of a nuclear submarine in 1960. As the sub slid into the James River, a couple of protesters were floating in the water hoping to prevent the activity and getting some headlines. No mention of them was permitted by editors in the papers or broadcast news. I thought sure I had a big story. Not this time.


A few years later covering a major golf tournament at the Norfolk Naval Base, I met the admiral-in-charge. For several months I received engraved invitations to his weekend receptions. Editors got a little nervous, wondering how I was a guest and the big editors were not. At the next soiree I inquired as to my considered esteem. The admiral replied he thought I was from the Virginia Pilots Association, the august body that guides ships into the ports. My forte then was writing sports for the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot newspaper. The invites ceased.


On Sunday’s Maritime Day a visit to the SS John W. Brown will be proper. Just have to find the Captain’s Table.


Ahoy mates.


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