There are all kinds of love affairs in life. Traditional ones are documented in the Sunday style section of the newspaper. Some are the stuff of great literature. Many are intangible, not easily named until the affair has played out over decades.
In 1954, at the Shorewood Apartments on Mercer Island, a young newly married couple received for Christmas a gift that would set in motion a profound love affair. Lucius and Nancy Biglow had moved to Seattle from the eastern seaboard the year after their wedding, and that first Northwest Christmas her parents sent a ditty bag filled with boat maintenance objects and a check for the purchase of a sailboat. Nancy, a seasoned Atlantic sailor, had grown up in Marblehead, MA, hailing from a long line of sailors dating back to the 1790s, when ancestors owned clipper ships that sailed out of Salem, MA.
Lucius, himself no stranger to the water, asked a friend for whom he crewed what sort of day-sailer would be best. The answer came back: Blanchard Jr. Knockabouts, built right here on Lake Union.
They tracked down a UW Professor who, with his wife, owned and was ready to sell BJK #28. Nancy and Lucius bought the boat and sailed their newly purchased (and freshly christened) Footloose to the Shorewood Apartments docks. Nancy’s family pennant, which had come down through centuries, would now fly on her own little ship.
They sailed Footloose frequently in and around the east channel, past Mercer Island and all around Lake Washington. “They loved seeing Seattle and its sister neighborhoods from the water,” their son Tim Biglow recently recalled. In 1956 they moved Footloose to the Leschi Yacht Yard, run by Bob & Charles Ross, and sailed her from there. “They did all their own maintenance: caulking, sanding, varnishing, and painting, while their young sons would look on from the safety of a carefully placed playpen,” Tim said. The Rosses helped by hauling and cradling the boat in the winter, and let Footloose sit in slings in the water in the spring until the wood planks swelled and sealed again.
Nancy and Lucius sailed with friends, taking picnics with them on evening outings, occasionally using the little outboard motor when the wind dropped to nothing. They took Footloose out through the ship canal many times, raising drawbridges en-route to Puget Sound. “In those days, there were no marinas on Puget Sound, so they would typically inspect Elliot Bay and make it home by twilight.” Tim said.
The biggest voyage was to Port Townsend for a regatta. On the way there they spent the night in Port Ludlow, in sleeping bags on the boat. “The waves on that trip were large and steep, with the strong wind against the flow of the tide,” Tim said, “something these experienced Atlantic Ocean sailors were unfamiliar with”.
In 1956, they bought a home on Evergreen Point, where they installed a mooring for Footloose. As their family grew, each of the four children took their turn learning to sail in her.
But the convenience of that moorage proved problematic. Twice they had to rescue the boat from fall storms that washed her ashore. Meydenbauer Bay Marina was eventually deemed a better home, and there Footloose stayed for many years, until 2014 when the decision was made to find Footloose (and her tender, an El Toro named Fancy Free) a new home – The Center for Wooden Boats.
Nancy and son Tim sailed her to CWB in 2014 to make the donation official. “It was a very emotional trip for Nancy, but very rewarding,” Tim said. “We put in along the way to visit Lucius at Park Shore retirement community, where he came down to say goodbye, gave her a pat, and said, ‘That’s my baby.’” Lucius enjoyed two more sails out of CWB on Footloose, before he died in June 2015, shortly after Nancy and he had celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary.
Today, you’ll know Footloose immediately by her bright mast (the only one of the CWB Blanchard fleet). Her sail still wears the number 28. And she still sports her original colors, destined to remain as such.
Last Spring, Nancy’s daughter Anne and college-aged granddaughter Megan brought Nancy to CWB because she was feeling wistful about the boat. Shelby Allman, CWB Fleet and Livery Manager, and the CWB crew helped Nancy into the boat, and three generations went out onto Lake Union for a sail together.
Nancy later sent a handwritten note to Shelby, saying, “It was very emotional for me to be on her again, and to have my granddaughter have her first sailing lesson on her… another generation learning to sail on Footloose!” – adding, “That’s why she was all over the place out there!” Tim later added, “Another generation of Biglows is learning to sail on the Footloose — very auspicious for Nancy and all of us.”
Nancy and her children recently pledged another gift to CWB. They will be donating the cost of a complete Jensen Marine haulout for the boat, ensuring that their beloved Footloose will remain in tip-top shape for future generations of CWB sailors.
The Footloose story is a beautiful example of the relationships many of us have with what, to the outside world, might seem inanimate objects. Boats, especially wooden boats, have a way of sneaking into our hearts and taking up permanent moorage. A love affair with The Center for Wooden Boats itself has long been an abiding presence in this writer’s heart. It’s fitting that Footloose, a steadfast metaphor for the love story of two transplanted newlyweds, finds its way to CWB for its next inspiring chapter.
“CWB is Footloose’s home now” Nancy said as she departed CWB last Spring. Nancy turns 90 this November. Our wish is that she might once more be at the helm for that trip back from Jensen’s, adding another personal footnote to what has clearly been a great love story.