North Sails LOFT NEWS

Story Contributors: Chelsie Strong


A Surprise Like No Other

When John and Ellie came into the loft in early November they divulged that they were looking for North Sails and North Sails swag for their son for Christmas. As we were talking I thought that this is a great story about parents doing something special for Christmas for their son, an avid sailing enthusiast who makes a living as an architect. I was able to ask them a few questions about what they are doing and what gave them the idea of getting new North Sails for their son. This is part one of the story. The second half will continue after Tom receives his new sails. *Last names have been omitted in order to keep the secret safe until Christmas.*

You and your wife are getting your son a set of North Sails for his boat for Christmas, what gave you the idea to do this?

Well the idea came up because the kids come up every summer, they live in a cottage in North Carolina where his boat, a Harpoon 4.6 is kept. The only time he gets to use the boat is during the summer when he visits. At one point he was wanting to sell the boat and I said no we’re not going to sell the boat, we’ll keep it right here in our pole barn and it’s going to be there when you want it. Which I think that was the answer he had wanted to hear. Anyhow, he was visiting us last year and the sails looked a little aged when he was out on the lake. I said to my wife, you know, we ought to have new sails made. We talked to him about it and initially asked would you go for some pretty colored ones that stand out on the lake? He says; “no, no. They’ve got be white.” North Sails are white so they’ve got to be white. He’s a purist when it comes to his sails. Taking that into consideration and knowing that he’s a purist when it comes to sails; we said, you know, “it’d be kind of neat if we could surprise him and just put new sails on the boat for him.”

What made you chose North Sails?

Back in the 90’s we had a place, in Florida on the gulf and a marina had a store that carried North Sails. He went crazy! I didn’t know about North Sails up until that point. He’s the one that kind of set it in motion, and that was after he had already had the boat. 

Is sailing something you have done as a family?  How did your son get into sailing?

How he got into sailing was because my sister, her husband, and their children lived on Lake Muskegon and they had a sailboat. So as their children, their oldest son got into sailing. They invited Tom up for a weekend and that was all it took. They got caught in a gale that came across Muskegon Lake that was pretty dangerous. We were on the way up to the cottage and had to stop under a viaduct because the wind was so bad. Being out in that and the adventure Tom had with his cousins really cemented it in. That’s how he got interested in it and it seemed so comfortable for him that it just engrained in his blood. Who knows how people get enthusiastic about one particular thing but they do. He still has a huge passion for it. He’ll watch the sailing races any time he can.

Is he more of a cruiser over a racer?

Cruising is more of what he does. He also has a 16-foot Whaler. In fact, his son Noah last year, he was 11, it was a little rough so he didn’t go. He’s trying to get Noah into it. It’s going to take a little time. His son is on the spectrum as he has autism, so he didn’t want to push it. But I think once he gets a nice calm day out there, he’ll be hooked. That’s how Tom got hooked. He already knows all the verbiage and the angles of sailing.

Do you have any other stories about your son’s interest in boats and boating? 

I think he has read every book ever written on the Edmund Fitzgerald. He is enamored with that story. When he was about 12 years old he asked me for a 3ft piece of a 2×4 and I asked said “for what?” He said he was working on a project so he carved up this piece of wood into a hull. He made a replica, I mean to scale, of the Edmund Fitzgerald. He was 12 or 13. We still have it. He’s got a power boat now too, on the lake at the cottage that he uses on the weekends for the kids, but he says real boating is sailing. His love is sailing.

I this gift coming as a surprise?

At first we were going to tell him. Then we thought, let’s keep it a secret and we’ll give it to him at Christmas. So we’re not going to say anything at Christmas, unless we have our hands on them. If we don’t, we’d rather just bring them down once they are made and surprise him. He’ll be excited about next summer to get back into the Harpoon; he’ll really get motivated. 

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