Brothers and sisters, big and little, go for a sail

Jo Maxwell and Aidee Espino looked happy to be aboard and ready for to sail. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Nearly 40 “littles” and “bigs” clambered aboard the Black Dog tall ship Alabama for a sunset sail on Tuesday, Sept. 21. It was the annual outing for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Martha’s Vineyard, donated each year by the Black Dog through Morgan Douglas.

Before Capt. Ian Ridgeway let the big schooner fall off her mooring and move gently out of Vineyard Haven harbor under foresail only, he told the group a bit about the boat’s history and how to behave aboard to avoid getting hurt. After the kids helped haul on the halyard to raise the foresail, they scampered happily around the deck and up and down ladders to cabins below.

There was a lot of snacking going on and mugging for the camera, and spontaneous games of hide-and-seek broke out now and again. The quintessential nautical experience may have been lost on some of the kids, but all hands large and small were smiling and laughing throughout.

The big brothers and sisters aboard ranged from relatively young single men and women to retired grandparents with extra time, a delight in young people, and the awareness that many youngsters on the Island are shortchanged when it comes to stable relationships with adults. These “bigs” are happy to pitch in and quick to point out that they get as much out of the relationship as their “littles” do.

When Capt. Ridgeway brought Alabama around and started tacking back into the harbor, several of the junior crewman grumbled about having to head in so soon — a sure sign that they’d had a good time and weren’t happy about waiting another year before they could get salty aboard the Alabama again.