The Annapolis sailing community celebrated a milestone in March when one of its most influential and longest-serving members, Dick C. Bartlett, turned 100. Bartlett, who is affectionately known as Dick C., was an original member of the Severn Sailing Association when it opened, and has maintained that membership for the past 70 years. His dedication to the sport has influenced countless sailors, from Opti rookies to America’s Cup skippers.
Bartlett’s sailing education began at home on the River Severn, when his father (a marine engineer) decided that if he wanted to find the right boat, he should build it in his basement.
“We had two National One-Designs that my dad had built, but we needed something smaller that could be launched from the beach,” says Bartlett. “He built a 17ft sailboat and called it the Severn One-Design, and we sailed it all summer. I think he built five in the basement of the minister’s house.
Bartlett Sr. had the right idea, as weekend regattas quickly became a mainstay. “My dad built boats because he wanted us to have something to do, and pretty soon you could have 25-30 boats on a Sunday afternoon.” Comets, snipes, National ODs and Severn ODs, penguins and even a few prototypes would invade the entrance to Round Bay, with parents and children competing against each other.
Bartlett graduated from Annapolis High School in 1940 and was immediately called to war. He enrolled in Navy flight school and learned to fly the Kingsfisher, a seaplane that carried a radioman in the back and a pilot in the bow. Kingfishers were launched by catapult from aircraft carriers with water landings made possible by a large float that extended the full length of the aircraft.
“The Navy used the Kingfisher to spot targets,” he says. “They would catapult us out of the battleship, and we would leave, then come back in a moment.” Bartlett was sent to San Diego for further training before ending up in the Aleutian Islands, where he piloted the Kingfisher out of Adak Naval Base. Bartlett spent the majority of World War II over the Bering Sea before returning home to California, where he had a young family waiting for him and more sailing to do.
“Dad and I had a Snipe when we lived in California,” says Linda Bartlett, the eldest of Bartlett’s three surviving children (her son Michael died at age 19 of muscular dystrophy). “It was usually that I skippered and dad was part of the crew because he wanted me to get as much experience as possible as a skipper of a boat.
If having a Navy pilot as a crew sounds daunting, Linda says otherwise. “Dad was always level-headed and gentle, but extremely disciplined. When I got mad, he was just like, ‘Don’t worry about it, get better next time.’ »
After a stint in the Korean War in command of AD Skyraiders, Dick C. brought his family back to the Annapolis area, just as Bartlett Sr. and a group of about 30 neighbors were busy starting a sailing club in downtown Annapolis. Three small cottages at the end of First Street in the Eastport neighborhood of Annapolis had come on the market, and a group of Round Bay residents got to work getting the space rezoned for a sailing club. The Bartlett children graduated from SSA’s youth sailing program, and Dick C. and other club members volunteered to help expand the club by installing bulkheads and filling them with dredge material.
“Being in a career where you went to war not once but twice, my dad wasn’t home often,” says Jonathan Bartlett, his son. “So when we got back to Annapolis, he knew it would be his last date before he retired, and he wanted to spend his time at SSA and do something with his kids.”
“He always said if you wanted to learn to sail, you got in a little boat,” Linda explains. “When he retired, he wanted to sail with his children. It was easier to do it in a small boat, but it’s also true that the best sailors are small boats.
Dick C. made sure his daughters had all the opportunities the boys had. Linda became the first female skipper of the Annapolis races in Newport and Newport in Bermuda. “Our father inspired us to achieve everything possible,” she says. “If you want to go out and do it, go out and do it. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you it can’t happen.
As a competitor, Dick C. was there to have fun. “My father has very gentle manners,” his son says. “He doesn’t get hurt, and I can understand why. It’s about a man who used to be catapulted into the air, spot enemy movement, then land his plane on water before being picked up by a single-point lift. It is as balanced as possible.
However, Bartlett’s youngest daughter, Robin, was not bitten by the racing bug. “He thought I would like to race, but I’m just not a competitive person,” she said. “So he bought me a Sunfish because he knew I liked sailing, and that way I could enjoy sailing and have fun without running.”
“I just encouraged them,” says Dick C. when asked how he raised three happy and successful sailors. “Often they didn’t know if they liked sailing, but I kept encouraging them.”
Bartlett’s strategy also worked outside of his family. Eric Purdon, who joined SSA in 1968 and began sailing in the Snipe fleet, formed a strong relationship with Dick C. early on. “I remember how encouraging he was to me and the other sailors at the back of the fleet,” he recalled. “As an organizer, Dick C. was a major reason the regattas went off without a hitch, and much of my sailing success is due to his encouragement during my early days of sailing.”
“Dick C.’s presence at every SSA annual meeting speaks volumes about the importance he places on the club,” says Ted Morgan, former SSA commodore. “He instilled in me (and so many others) a strong desire to keep SSA grounded and constantly focused on the Club’s mission to promote one-design sailing, especially junior sailing, and to make it a Damn fun organizing social media activities for sailors.
Today, Dick C. has a slightly slower pace. “I try to keep busy,” he says, admitting the early months of the pandemic were difficult as he was constantly kept at home. “But I’ve seen too much over the years to worry about something like this. It’s like the stock market: it goes up, it goes down, and you can’t care.
So how does it feel to celebrate your 100th birthdayand birthday? “There really isn’t a ‘best part’,” he says. “But I’m still alive and I can still do anything. Thanks to my aviator eyes, I can still drive day and night.
“He’s the nicest, most optimistic person I know,” says Linda. “Having him as a father has been a plus for me more than I can even say. And having him for as long as I’ve had him is remarkable.