Featured image: 2014 photo of Jake Burridge, courtesy Ipswich Chronicle. Original color photo by Kirk Williamson.

In October, 2016 I was privileged to speak with Jake Burridge, a legendary 99-year-old Ipswich native. His wife Marsha graciously shared photos for this story.

Jake grew up on Linebrook Rd., where he received his earliest education at the one-room Linebrook School. His class was one of the earliest to graduate from the Ipswich High School on Green Street, now the Ipswich Town Hall.

jake_burridge_seabee_sitting2

Jake loves to sail, so when the second World War started, he joined the Seabees as a member of the United States Naval Construction Forces (NCF). He took on a very dangerous job, diving in a full diving helmet to clear debris in harbors, and when necessary, planting dynamite to facilitate the work.

jake_burridge_divesuit
Jake Burridge, preparing for a dive during WWII
jake_burridge_dive_helmet
Jake in his diving suit

On his return from the war, Jake began contracting, and was member of the Ipswich Auxiliary Fire Department.

jake_burridge_seabee_47
Jake Burridge, 1947, home from the war.

Wherever

jake_burridge_parade_95
VFW Commander Jake Burridge led the parade through Ipswich at the 50 year celebration of the end of WWII.  The story is told that when they reached the Choate Bridge, an officer asked the veterans where the parade would turn, and they answered, “Wherever Jake  decides to take us.”

Borrowed text and photos below are from an article in Ipswich Today, July 1, 1983, with additional information from the Ipswich Chronicle.

In November 1982, Jake Burridge, already in his 60’s, set out on his 33-foot sailboat “Trepidation” from Gloucester and set his course for the Bahamas. He’d made this trip before, but this time was harder. “There were gale watches all down the coast. It was windy, cold and miserable.” A trawler named “Lovely Lady,” that he was sailing with dragged its 65-pound anchor, and a ship from Hyannis was demolished, but Jake kept going. Jake took a Christmas break, then returned to Florida, continued south to Key Biscayne, and then set out for Nassau,where he was joined by her wife. Together they sailed through very rough seas to Staniel Cay, where she took a plane home, telling him that he was “stupid to be risking your life out there every day.”

Jake Burridge, 1983. Photo from Ipswich Today.
Jake Burridge, 1983. Photo from Ipswich Today.

“She had a point,” Jake confessed, and he began to wonder, “What the hell am I doing out her,” but he stayed with it, cruising the outer islands of the Bahamas. In the ports, the weather-bound sailors had time to get to know each other. One such fellow was heading for Cape Hatteras on his 41-foot sailboat, but Jake decided not to accompany him. Two days later the friend and his ship were lost at sea. Jake saw his own foresail split down the middle when he waited too late to shorten sail.

Asked what he thought about on his journey, Jake replied, If you’re sailing single-handed, there isn’t much time to think about anything else besides what your next move is going to be, or when the next bucketful of Water is going to hit you in the face.”

burridge_boat
This painting of Jake Burridge’s boat Trepidation hangs over his fireplace mantel.

After he returned home, Jake considered his wife’s advice, but he had always wanted to cross the Atlantic Ocean. He purchased a worthy boat in the Netherlands, named it Trepidation just like his other boats, and sailed it down the European coastline. The next year he and a crew sailed the boat from Gran Canaria, reaching the Bahamas in 21 days, 2800 miles. This was not his last voyage. Burridge would later take Trepidation from Nova Scotia to the Caribbean.

Jake doesn’t sail now, but he has 99 years of sailing stories to share with you.

In the fall of 2016, Paul Valcour and Gordon Harris dropped in on Jake Burridge and recorded the interview below:

2 thoughts on “Jake Burridge, the sailor

  1. The gentle and ripping wind, blazing early morning sunrises, pastel sunsets painted in late afternoons, salty marshes that spawn green heads every July, briny Little Necks, warm dunes that cradle you to sleep, beefy starfish, fuzzy purple sand dollars, sweet tasting water where the river meets the ocean, the sound of gulls and lanyards hitting masts, groups of wading crones, the ruling tide, wise moons, and the great expansive ocean that births poets, dreamers, and dancers; raised Jake; our most beloved Ipswich son. xxxx Torii

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s