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.

Celebrating Independence Day in USA

Friday July 4, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 5 Comments

"Fourth of July" parade

Celebrating Independence Day in USA

To some people the Fourth of July means barbecues and fireworks displays. To others, July Fourth means street parades, military celebrations and commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, celebrating independence day in the USA. Our neighborhood brings out the barbecues and picnic tables after our two minute bike parade. However you celebrate independence day, give thanks for living in the USA.
 
 

kids, bikes "July Fourth"

Kids on bikes, July Fourth

 
Getting ready to celebrate Independence Day in Northern California
 

"Fourth of July" parade

Families celebrate Fourth of July

 
Fourth of July celebrations include American flags and parades
 

kids on bikes

Kids on bikes celebrate July Fourth in Northern California

 
Celebrating Independence Day in Half Moon Bay, California
 

horse

Celebrating Independence Day in Half Moon Bay, California

 
How do you celebrate independence day in the USA?
 

Napa Valley Festival del Sole

Thursday July 3, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 1 Comment

"Jamieson Ranch" horse

Jamieson Ranch hosts Napa Valley Festival del Sole

As I have stated many times on this luxury travel blog, I feel blessed to live in Northern California with its endless possibilities of beauty, musical talent, fantastic food and wine, creative artists and wellness practitioners. A wonderful example of these opportunities coming together in one location is Napa Valley Festival del Sole. This annual 10 day summer celebration takes place in numerous venues throughout Napa Valley, California with over 100 wineries participating in this July event.

 

"Cici's Italian Butterhorns" "Taste of Napa"

Cici’s Italian Butterhorns participate at Festival del Sole: A Taste of Napa

 
Festival del Sole Taste of Napa

I had the pleasure of attending A Taste of Napa last July. Festival del Sole guests are treated to nibbles, bites and sips from Napa Valley wineries and culinary creators from Northern California. One of my favorite finds from A Taste of Napa was Lafayette, California-based Cici’s Italian Butterhorns. This mother-daughter duo makes delicious handmade Italian treats.
 

 
Festival del Sole concerts

Concert goers will appreciate the high caliber of musicians and singers drawn to Napa Valley for the opportunity to perform at Festival del Sole. With concerts ranging from Joshua Bell, to the Russian National Orchestra performing in 2013 and a series of young artist concerts sponsored by Bouchaine Vineyards, chamber music afficionados to opera lovers will leave on a satisfied note.
 

"Russian National Orchestra" "Lincoln Theater" "Festival del Sole"

Russian National Orchestra takes stage at Napa Valley Festival del Sole’s Lincoln Theater


Festival del Sole Gala

The annual Festival del Sole Gala at Meadowood Napa Valley is an elegant enchanted garden affair. I have yet to attend this swank gala, as it is a hot ticket at Festival del Sole with a live auction at the end of the evening to benefit Festival del Sole and various local arts education programs. The sold-out gala requests ladies dress in white attire, while gentlemen are required to wear summer dinner jackets.

Festival del Sole lodging

As mentioned above, Napa Valley Festival del Sole is a much anticipated summer event in Northern California. You’ll want to make your Napa Valley hotel reservations in advance, as this is not the festival to drink and drive. I stayed at Napa River Inn when I attended Napa Valley Festival del Sole. Additional hotel partners include properties in Calistoga, Napa, Rutherford, St. Helena and Yountville.
 

"Grape Crusher" sculpture

Napa Valley Festival Sole blends wine, food, music & arts

 
Insider Tip:
While Napa Valley Festival del Sole is not an inexpensive affair, there are several free concerts and events open to the general public – reservations recommended. For additional insider tips follow Northern California Travel Writer @Nancydbrown on Twitter and Festival del Sole @Napafest.

If You Go:
Napa Valley Festival del Sole (888) 337-6272
www.festivaldelsole.org

Article, photos and video courtesy of Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown. Cici’s Italian Butterhorns photo provided. I was a guest of Festival del Sole’s Taste of Napa Valley, the Russian National Orchestra performance at Lincoln Center and Jamieson Ranch dinner. All opinions are my own.