Entries in ‘Travel’ Journal

Book Review: Victura: The Kennedys, A Sailboat, and the Sea

Friday July 11, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 3 Comments

"Victura" book

Victura: The Kennedys, a Sailboat, and the Sea

The lives of President John F. Kennedy and his storied family have been dissected, one would have thought, from every angle possible. But now comes the story of their enchantment with sailboats. As an avid sailor, this approach piqued my interest as none of the other myriad of tell-all stories of American’s “Camelot” had ever done. Author and Kennedy family friend James W. Graham focuses his tale on the Wianno Senior a 25-foot (7.6 m) gaff-rigged sloop that seems to be raced only on Nantucket Sound by four Cape Cod yacht clubs. JFK was, according to the tale, given a Senior at age 15 and it was named Victura, which means “about to live” or “about to conquer.”

The book starts out, as many Kennedy biographies do, with the last days of the doomed president. But it focuses on a doodle the president made on the stationary of the Rice Hotel in Houston, where he and his wife Jacqueline stayed the night before his assassination in Dallas. On a piece of paper found later by the cleaning staff was a little sketch of a sailboat.

"Kennedy" sailing

Kennedy sailing Victura with kids

The Kennedys love of sailing

It’s a novel way to approach the story of the Kennedy family, and I was anxious to see how the story of their love for the sea wound through the historic highs and lows of the Kennedy epic. We learn a number of things about the family and their relationship to the sea, mostly about their family compound at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. We’re reminded the Kennedys were ambitious, competitive and hated to lose at anything, especially sailing. This was something they learned from the patriarch of the family, Joseph P. Kennedy, who would chide his children, or just plain not talk to them, after a loss in a sailing race. We learned that, to the Kennedys, sailing was a ritual to prove their place in the family, and fight for a place in the pecking order. Sailboats were a place for courting and building an image as America’s first family of a new generation of politicians in the tumultuous middle of the last century.

Many of the iconic stories and images of the Kennedys concern boats and water. The most powerful, of course, is the story of JFK surviving the sinking of the PT109 in the South Pacific during World War II; another is the picture of JFK and Jacqueline on Victura during their courtship (pictured above, on the cover of the book). This tale is at its best when it sticks to the boats and the lives of the Kennedys when they return to Hyannis Port to sail together as a way to celebrate or mourn, which they did in spades.


"Victura" sailboat

Victura sailboat at JFK Library & Museum, Boston.

The book drags a bit when it wanders too far from the sea, trying to weave in the major issues and crises of JFK’s presidency, like the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Cold War, and other historical and political challenges faced by JFK and his brothers. It’s clear that returning to Hyannis Port to sail was one way the Kennedys decompressed from their extraordinary public lives. The sections on the presidency don’t add to what is already known, and make the real core of the story — a family’s love for the sea — seem small and, except to a sailor, slightly inconsequential in perspective.

This book confirms much of what we have come to know about the Kennedy family: they live lives not like the rest of us. But it also showed that they shared something core to most sailors: the knowledge that roiling tides, battering winds and the challenges of flapping sails and flying sheets are both a salve for despair and a powerful way to feel the joys of victory. Whether you are a sailor or fan of John F. Kennedy, you might enjoy the book Victura: The Kennedys, a Sailboat and the Sea by author James W. Graham.

Where to Buy

Victura: The Kennedys, A Sailboat, and the Sea

This is a guest post written by Spencer A. Sherman. Spencer last wrote about Houseboating on Lake Oroville.

Travel Trends Infographic

Wednesday June 25, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 2 Comments

travel infographic

Travel trends

Travel trends infographic designed by Natalie Crandall. Natalie’s last post was about downtown Atlanta, Georgia.

Willett Distillery: An Intimate Stop on Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail

Wednesday June 18, 2014 at 8:08 AM | 0 Comments

Willett Distillery

Willett Distillery: where smooth, rich tasting goodness is made.

About this time last year, I was learning about bourbon in Louisville, Kentucky as I traversed the Urban Bourbon Trail. This month I added to my bourbon know-how at Willett Distillery in Bardstown.

Founded in 1936, Willett Distillery is still owned and operated by a Willett. For anyone who likes intimate tours where the tour guide offers to take pictures of visitors, and you can taste several types of bourbon as a finale, come here.

Just a few minutes drive from the heart of Bardstown, southeast of Louisville, Willett Distillery fits the craft bourbon category. Operating as a micro-distillery, Willett is a smaller scale operation than the mega distilleries like Heaven Hill, a major player in the Bardstown landscape. Willett bourbon tastes anything but small.

I savored each of the offerings and settled on a bottle of private stock Johnny Drum as a gift for my husband who was not with me on this venture.

The 45-minute tour includes a close look at each of the steps required to produce bourbon whiskey thanks to a guide who points out each step of the bourbon making process and explains what makes Willett’s whiskey a bourbon stand out. What part of the process you’ll see depends upon what day you visit. Because our tour was on a Saturday, the distillery was quiet. We did get a whiff and a taste of fermentation as the yeast did it’s work in a few of the tanks.

In the aging warehouse.

In Willett Distillery aging warehouse.

I particularly enjoyed the aesthetics of the distillery’s architecture.  The mix of wood, brick and large glass windows is lovely. My other favorite stop on the tour was the aging warehouse where rows of stacked oak barrels filled with bourbon give off a mild whiff of dusky sweetness.

Tours are seven days a week except for Easter, Memorial Day, Labor Day, July 4th, Thanksgiving, December 24, 25, 31 and January 1. Mon.-Sat. tours run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the hour. Sun. tours from March-December are 12:30; 1:30; 2;30 and 3:30. 

We paid $10 which included the tour and a souvenir glass. Otherwise tours are $7. Each tour includes tasting.

Military members with ID are free, but if you want the glass, it’s $3. We did not have reservations but according to the website, if you’re visiting Friday-Sunday, reservations are recommended. Call 502-348-0899 or e-mail visitorcenter@willettdistillery.com.

A few of Willett's bourbon offerings.

A few of Willett’s bourbon offerings.

If you go, pick up a Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour passport. As you visit each of the 9 craft bourbon distilleries featured on the do-it-yourself-tour, get the passport stamped. After you’ve visited each place, you’ll get a free T-shirt. The craft bourbon distilleries are in different parts of Kentucky which makes for a festive way to take in the Bluegrass State.

Post and photos courtesy of Jamie Rhein of Midwest Travel Writers Association