I was born near a lighthouse far out at sea on January 20, 1913. I must have heard the ocean roar and heard it pounding on the shore. My eyes first opened up to see a giant of a wave that soared right up to the tower door; and I had yet to see the floor.
Eight summer’s came and with it a big three mast schooner came also. It was anchored outside of the twelve mile limit zone; Prohibition was the name of the game. The liquor was off loaded to the motor boats that were to get it to the land. I was at the tiller, far at sea and my father was out from sampling the tea. I was the youngest rum runner of them all.
At fifteen and sixteen the summers just flew. My father took me with him for his crew as a sailor on a yawl sailing yacht. I decided that I would follow in my father’s footsteps and be a seafaring man.
I was Captain Kelley at seventeen; on a New York Club thirty foot, sail sloop. There was no power other than sail; “BLACK PHANTOM” was her name.
My 2nd World War, I worked as a rigger at the Boston Navy Yard during the attack on Pearl Harbor; December 7, 1941. My first three days were spent replacing a stay on the foremast of “OLD IRONSIDES” the U. S. S. Constitution.
Now I needed all that I could earn to support a pretty nineteen year old wife and home. October 27, 1931 we married and bought some property in Milbridge, Maine. Vera Alley Kelley and I had three children and were married for sixty five wonderful and memorable years.
A Liberty Ship yard was built at South Portland, Maine. I managed to get my release from the Navy Yard. At South Portland’s West yard as a “pusher rigger” I helped build the ships and I was on board every launching as they slid into the bay.
I bought an older sixty foot yacht, with screens and soft bunks for our beds. I renamed her “EASTERN STAR” and ran charter parties up and down the Connecticut River.
Combustion Engineering was a fine company to work for until the Union spoiled it all. I retired myself again to move south to North Carolina to enjoy my boat longer than a few summer months. I developed a small marine railway yard of my own.
I was at home at Harkers Island near the Outer Banks of N.C., when I got an interesting call. The “BIG BAD JOHN” had hit her propellers at a long sand creeping shoal in the waterway. I was recommended to Jimmy Dean as the right licensed captain to pilot her to Florida. Jimmy Dean said, “Take her over”!
I was hired by Luther and Misses Blount to captain the “M. V. MOUNT HOPE” for the cruises from Warren, Rhode Island to Canada. My last cruise on the so called “Mini Love Boat” was through the Cape Cod Canal and on to Maine.
The forty five foot ketch the “FROLIC”, I bought for my own. The “FROLIC” was berthed at Morehead City close to my home.
An offer to buy my “FROLIC” came. I sold the boat and bought a mobile home at Edgewater, Fla. on the waterway. Golf and shuffling were fun for a while; I won trophies and some money too.
I left there and went to the Palms in Sebring, Florida, a retirement home. I did most of my writing here as I had time on my hands to spare. Then a few years later I lost my wife that had been with me for 65 wonderful years.
I had my grandson pick me up from Sebring and move me to Newport, North Carolina where I could be with my son Bob Kelley and his family. I have enjoyed being at the Crystal Coast for the nice scenery and fair weather. I have been going to the car races that my grandson Big Jim Kelley drives the # K7 car in and he has been very successful in winning 20 championships and nearly 200 feature wins. Now living with my family of five generations, the Kelley name will be around for a long time to come.
I have been writing of my experiences that I have had in my wonderful lifetime. I have many tales to tell; why should I not write some books, if only to see if I can set a hook.
Capt. Gardner M. Kelley
Now 100 years old, and going strong, 1-20-2013