For two years we have made a boat trip to Milford, taken a dock, and had Caleb and Ceci sleep over on the boat – Milford Mania in 2022 and 2nd Annual Trip to Milford in 2023. At the end of last year’s visit, Caleb, very thoughtfully, said that they stayed over one night and then two nights, so shouldn’t they sleep over THREE nights the next time? And can Addie come, too?

With that prompt, we decided to host BOAT CAMP during Summer 2024. When we heard that Don and Cindy would have their granddaughter, Charlotte, who is 12 years old, onboard for two weeks, we decided that we should host our boat camp during that time. With everyone’s schedules involved, there was only one window of time where this could happen – June, after Father’s Day. We would have the three of our granchildren for 4 days and 3 nights. 

I put a LOT of planning into this event. Truth be told, I overplanned. That’s ok. It is much better to have too much planned than not enough. We chose the week, the location, the activities, and then crossed our fingers for good weather.

Addie shows her anticipation with this chalk drawing at a town street fair. She was very excited for boat camp and asked her mother to send this to us.

June 17th arrived! We felt prepared for these three darlings – Caleb, now 10, Ceci 7½, and Addie soon to be 8 years old. We dared not depart Shennecossett without feeding the fish, a must for any child, and adults, too. The kids had another blast feeding these big guys. This never gets old.

Lots of squeals while feeding the fish! They worked very hard to get the fish to jump and open their mouths wide for a treat. We did caution them that a finger might resemble a hot dog……
Captain Papa shows our crew how we find our way on the water with routes and course plotting on both the iPad and the main chart plotter. There are no roads and intersections out here.

I decided to make individual log books for our crew and for Charlotte. I had searched on Amazon and found nothing suitable, IMHO. So why not design my own?  This was a good winter/spring project for me. I had Staples do the binding.

Each cover had a photo of the boat and the crew member’s name. The first page was the information for the boat. Each log book holds pages for each travel day. The back cover has the initials spelled with signal flags.
They took the log book writing very seriously. I had planned to teach them about latitude and longitude, but decided a very brief lesson was all that was needed at this time.
Charlotte works on her log book on Limerick with Captain Pop-Pop.

We chose Napatree and Watch Hill for our boat camp location. The 1½-2 hour travel time was a perfect amount of time. Long enough to enjoy the ride but not so long that the crew becomes restless. Napatree is a great anchorage – the beach is a short walk over the barrier, lots of room for water play, and Watch Hill for a bit of land fun.

Lunch underway in the pilot house. We all agreed that everything tastes better on a boat.
Riding on the bow as we turned into Napatree. Oh my, their smiles fill my heart with joy.
What a beautiful day for the start of this adventure.
After our arrival at Napatree, Papa gave an anchoring lesson.

The clamor for dinghy driving lessons began as soon as that anchor dug in.

Caleb takes his dinghy driving very seriously. I am amazed that he is able to pull and start the engine himself! This year he practiced bringing the dinghy up to the boat.
Ceci and Addie were content to ride in the bow while Caleb drove. This time.

Next on the child-driven agenda was a quick trip to the beach. Napatree is a great beach – good sand and waves.

They love collecting driftwood and building with it. There wasn’t much on the beach today but Caleb found some pieces and the girls soon joined in.
Kids love waves that they can jump in and over. The squeals and screams were as much from the cold temperatures as it was from the excitement. 65 degrees?????

We headed back to the anchorage to greet Limerick and help them raft to us.

Kindred Spirit and Limerick rafted for boat camp. (Thank you to LeeAnn for this photo.)

After dinner we gathered on Limerick for dessert and a game of kid charades in the aft cockpit.

Al made conch horns for each “boat camper.” We still have quite a collection of conch horns from our Bahamas trips. Time for sunset horns!

Caleb and Charlotte both play the trombone in their school bands so the sunset serenade was much easier for them. Two of the conchs weren’t quite up to par so Al needs to modify those.
The sun set on a fantastic beginning to our boat camp.

The second day of boat camp began with a shaky start. For Nana. The kids were awake at 4:30 AM. Yes, 4:30 AM. I sternly told them that it was not light yet, it was not morning yet, and it was not time to get up! Haha. The “quiet” lasted until 5:30 AM whereupon, I gave up and got up.

The morning was spent doing assorted this and that, all boating activities.

Addie and Ceci peering through the binoculars at…… who knows? 😉
Papa wanted to doublecheck the accuracy of our depth sounder (that channel into Napatree is getting more shallow at some points) so the crew learned how to do that with a lead weight attached to a line.
More dinghy driving practice.


Kids sure do love to dig in the sand! All four “campers,” ages 7 to 12, tirelessly worked on this hole.
I can’t believe we never thought to bring shovels and buckets! Next time, for sure.
Did Ceci fall asleep in the sand?????
Charlotte brought kites for everyone. They were terrific kites – easy to put together and easy to fly. Alas, the fun was very short-lived. The beach patrol came by and informed us that kite flying was not permitted on the beach. Whaaat? Beaches are the perfect spot for flying kites! But Watch Hill is determined to protect the nesting birds and the kites might…. hurt them, scare them?
Walking back to the boat. The path is much wider this year after a few winter storms redesigned the dunes.
There were quiet moments.
Limerick‘s cushioned bench on the bow was a fine reading spot. Addie and Caleb made paper boats. Ceci read about the Titanic. Caleb sketched the shoreline.
Someone on Limerick was entertaining our crew. Was it Don? Cindy? Charlotte?
Our full boating experience always includes ice cream and this trip is no exception to that rule. Off to St. Claire’s Annex!

For years, I have wanted to bring my grandchildren to Watch Hill to ride the Watch Hill Merry-Go-Round.  The merry-go-round is thought to have been built around 1876 by the Charles W. Dare Company of New York and was part of a traveling carnival until 1879, when the carnival was forced to abandon it in Watch Hill. The New England Hurricane of 1938 severely damaged the carrousel. Considering the devastation wrought everywhere by that hurricane, it is truly amazing that all but three of the horses were recovered from the sand dunes and the carousel was restored to operation. 

The bodies of the horses were carved from single blocks of wood, with the legs carved separately and attached. The horses still have their original agate eyes; although other decorations and parts have been replaced, including manes and reins. The horses are suspended by chains under the canopy. As the merry-go-round rotates, centrifugal force pushes the horses outward, hence, the name “flying horses.”

The merry-go-round was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

The Watch Hill Bathing Beach Merry-Go-Round
Round and round.

Side note: Is it the term carousel or merry-go-round? I foolishly looked that question up and tumbled down a rabbit hole…….

That evening we settled our crew down with a movie to watch, followed by a stern lecture from Nana about waking up in the morning. Never, ever again, can they get lip at 4:30 in the morning!

Success!! Not a peep was heard until after 6:00 am!!! They were quite proud of themselves and Nana felt rejuvenated.
Wikki stix saved the day, too, keeping them occupied until I was up and ready.
They are VERY active children, bit they also can focus and create. The drawings were made in anticipation and on board. Caleb built the little wooden boat and brought it with him. Ceci made a sailboat with her Wikki Stix. It’s kind of funny that most of their creations are sailboats, not trawlers. They never knew our sailboats.
As a mother of sons, my hair skills are nearly non-existent. Addie and Ceci were so patient as I fumbled through the washing, combing, and braiding. They have so much hair!

Wednesday morning was kayaking day.

The girls used the kid kayaks, I was in my own kayak and Caleb used Al’s kayak. Al stayed close by in the dinghy.
This year Ceci and Addie were able to kayak by themselves. Caleb took off like a shot. We all kayaked to the beach and back.

Then Papa had an idea – tow the kayaks with the dinghy, fast. This was better captured in video so here are two short clips.

Caleb is comfortable enough to stick his legs out.
I hope the squeals from Ceci and Addie are audible. On a final turn, Ceci’s kayak flipped over. She was a trouper – popped up and immediately climbed aboard the turned-over kayak.

After lunch, we returned to the beach.

This may be my favorite photo of the entire time.
There really is no need to plan anything when you are on the beach. These three make their own fun.
Ceci, our dancer, and Addie, our gymnast, cartwheeled down the beach. Caleb’s basketball skills don’t quite translate to cartwheels. 😉
Into the waves after Charlotte arrived.
Time for a little break?? 😍
The crew helps Papa get the dinghy ready to go back to Kindred Spirit. No free rides here. 😉

After beach body clean-up (so much sand….) we boarded Limerick for Cindy’s craft project. I have been teaching the kids about nautical signal flags. Cindy took that idea and ran with it, bringing the supplies so that each could make their own named signal flag pillows.

Arranging their alphabet signal flag patches on their pillow cover.
The Dahl pillow factory at work. Yes, Limerick even has an iron onboard!
These three were quite proud of their pillows, as they should be! Nice work!
Thank you Cindy and Don!
The girls get some more dinghy driving practice with Papa before the sun set.

Thursday was our last day of boat camp. The crew slept in until a decent time again (I think we’ve got this worked out!)

Limerick was leaving early for an overnight stop in Stonington before heading back to Sea Cliff, NY. Saying goodbye is hard. All four grandkids had a wonderful time together.
Our crew serenaded Limerick as they departed Napatree.
They still love casting these toy fishing rods with the plastic fish. I guess it is time for us to upgrade to real fishing rods. Except we don’t fish. 🤔
A quick trip back into town, not for ice cream, for t-shirts!
Anchor up lessons with Papa.
A very happy crew on Kindred Spirit!
Watch Hill t-shirts and 4Ocean bracelets as a graduation from boat camp.
Back at Shennecossett Yacht Club. My favorite crew in the world. 🥰

It was four days of fun and play with our grandchildren, making memories for all of us. Limerick’s participation in boat camp was a bonus. Don, Cindy, and Charlotte are like family. Yes, it was exhausting at times and the Kadey Krogen 39 is not really designed for five people, but every moment of this adventure was special and filled our hearts with love and joy.

7 Responses

  1. Susie

    Wow so impressive. You always have so many great ideas. It sure looks like everyone had a wonderful time. I sure wish we could get our two grand daughter from Texas to come see us during the summer. You set the bar high for other grandparents…I just love the energy y’all have.

    • watsons

      It was the best! Truth be told, it took us 2 days of R&R at home to recover. But worth every minute!

  2. Barbara Pawloski

    I too smiled the entire time I read this. Such a special time for all of you. Something the kids will cherish for the rest of their lives!

  3. Ellen Seltzer

    i’m with mary marie…you are both very special people and your grandchildren are very lucky to have you. what a wonderful way to spend 3 days…living and learning and having a ball (except for the 4:30 wake up)…it looks like a fabulous “camp”…may I go next year????


  4. Mary Marie

    I just smiled the whole time I read this. You made a little bit – no, a lot – of magic for your special crew. Well done, Nana and Papa!

    • watsons

      So good to hear from you, Mary Marie! It was really a special time for all of us. No tears, no fights, just smiles and fun.

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