In the morning, even before the Hy-Line ferry boat docks to let off passengers, Straight Wharf is a busy place. Shops are opening, people are strolling, and the charter boats are preparing for a day full of expectant visitors. There’s a line of charter boats docked along Straight Wharf offering fishing cruises, but only one that will take guests out for a sail. That boat is the Friendship Sloop Endeavor, and this season Captain Jim Genthner, his family, and his crew are celebrating their 30th anniversary of sailing from Nantucket.
It was a lifelong dream of Jim Genthner to build and own a Friendship sloop. And to comemmorate his endeavors and his achievements, the Genthners have collaborated with author Bobbi McPeak to publish Sailing Nantucket Sound, a book about Jim’s pursuit of his dream. In just 153 pages McPeak has managed to capture the spirit of Endeavor and the personality of Captain Jim—reading the book is like going on a sail with him. It’s an engaging read with 90 beautiful color photographs taken by Jim’s wife, Sue, and his daughter, Lisa.
When I sat down with Sue Genthner one morning last week to chat about their 30 years on Nantucket, the sun was glistening off the water, there was a light but steady breeze, and the dock was bustling. “What a great place to spend your days,” I commented. She agreed: “Yes, it’s been a great season…everyone seems so happy this summer!…When I think about our anniversary, it’s gone by in a flash! It is something to celebrate, though: 30 years with the same captain, same boat, same slip, and the same wife,” Sue said, smiling.
“Nantucket has been so wonderful to us over the years…the locals and summer folks really supported us in the early days, coming out sailing when ever they could to keep us going… When Jim started he had just a cardboard sign and no phone!”
As we talked, a couple walked up to arrange a private cruise for eleven; and a just a few minutes later, a young couple strolled by and inquired about a sunset sail. The days of the cardboard sign and scraping by clearly have passed, and Captain Jim and his Endeavor have earned a reputation for
offering what old Nantucketers might have called “a damn fine sail.”
Captain Jim used an old design when he built the Endeavor. “The design is more than 100 years old,” Sue explained, “It’s a gaff-rigged sloop with a mainsail and two jibs, and the rails are low to the water so when the boat heels you really feel like you’re sailing.” It is exhilarating, yet completely safe. Safe enough to take children: “we’ll take any age, so long as they can sit for an hour-amd-a-half.” For 3- to 6-year-olds, Endeavor also offers shorter Pirate Cruises during which the little ones can get their faces painted and pretend to be pirates under the Jolly Roger, firing a cannon, and following a treasure map. For this one hour adventure, Captain Jim motors around the harbor. “Loren at The Toy Boat inspired us…25 years ago, there were not many things here for kids to do, so these were an immediate hit.”
The Endeavor is also popular with year-round residents: “For locals, it’s like an hour-and-a-half vacation.” And it’s become a favorite for celebrtions of all sorts: birthday parties, anniversaries, bachelorette parties, and even a venue for engagements: “We’ve had three proposals this year — they all said ‘yes’.”
“We have a wonderful cross section of people we take out…we’ve taken people who have never sailed, people who have sailed the world, people who race. People sail on the Endeavor because they want to sail with Jim.” It’s Jim’s love of sailing, his enthusiasm, and his ability to share the pleasure with others that makes sailing with him so special. Sue explained it to Bobbi McPeak in Sailing Nantucket Sound, “People just want to go sailing with Jim. He can do that four times a day, and you can go sailing with him, and it’s late August, and it’s like it is the first trip of the season. He truly loves what he does, and he doesn’t want to do anything else…
“It’s pretty amazing when I think about the people we touch. The Endeavor is a great equalize r… when I book the passengers on board the boat, there might be a professor from the Midwest…a senator, a family from the South, an engineer at NASA, and an investment banker…at first they are all fairly quiet on board…then, before long, they meet somebody they never would have met in their own circle…They laugh, they chat, exchange emails, and often set up times to meet later. That is the absolute magic of the Endeavor.”
Some of this magic is captured in Sailing Nantucket Sound. “I’ve been wanting to do Jim’s story for years,” Sue explained. “It’s a great story about someone who knew what he wanted to do at age 12 and who went for it…it’s about a man pursuing his dream… it’s inspiring.”
One day last summer when children’s author Bobbi McPeak was strolling down the wharf with her daughter Jennifer who had worked for the Genthners, Sue stopped them and asked Bobbi if she’d write the book. She agreed, and over the next few months went sailing five times with Jim, and
interviewed him and his wife. Sue Genthner and her daughter Lisa have always loved taking photographs, so they had plenty to use for the book project. Over the winter, McPeak started writing, and by March, she had a draft for the Genthners to read. They loved it.
“When I started putting it together,” McPeak commented “it was clear that this wasn’t a children’s book…I thought I was writing about the boat, but I realized that I was writing about the man…When you go out on the Endeavor and Jim leans out over the transom, you can see that he’s really happy…he’s a down-to-Earth guy, and that’s what Nantucket is all about.”
Captain Jim sails offers 1-1/2 hour sails aboard Endeavor four times a day at 10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm, and sunset, plus Pirate Adventures for kids on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9 am. For details, fares, and to purchase a copy of Sailing Nantucket Sound, visit www.EndeavorSailing.com or call 508-228-5585.