Heather the Bareboat

Sailing has always been a popular hobby in my family. My grandfather owned a succession of boats, and for a number of years, so did my father. My dad was also fond of “improving” existing sailboat designs—using tracing paper and a pencil to refine designs seen in sailing magazines. He also built numerous small wooden craft, always starting with a scale model made from balsa wood. When I was in high school I recall him asking to use my scientific calculator to determine sail displacement/length ratios.

Displacement being the amount of volume a boat’s hull takes up that would otherwise be occupied by a water, and LWL representing the boat’s length at the waterline. You’ll have to ask one of my more boat-savvy family members for further explanation!

Uncle Kevin has had a boat for most of his adult life; he plies the waters of Lake Michigan each summer. As for my generation, the sailing bug didn’t bite me so hard—I’ve never owned a boat but am happy to be part of a crew. On the other hand, my brother (Brett), a boat-owning sailing enthusiast, recently arrived in the Virgin Islands to charter a 50-foot catamaran with some friends. Accordingly, I thought now would be a good time to switch things up and feature a chapter from my grandfather’s final NEA comic strip, UP ANCHOR!

I don’t have very many UP ANCHOR! newspaper examples, but the Grand Rapids Public Library has a large collection of original illustrations (nearly half of the 174 episodes), which I have photographed on my visits to the library. Sadly, my UP ANCHOR! photos didn’t turn out as well as those from previous visits, when I shot the library’s collection of MITZI McCOY and KEVIN THE BOLD originals. However, my friend Gregorio from Spain worked some photoshop magic on my lousy exposures; about a dozen of these images will appear here over the next several weeks (supplemented by a few color Sunday pages from my collection).

So with appreciation for Gregorio’s efforts and a bit of jealousy that I’m not part of my brother’s crew, here is an UP ANCHOR! sequence from early 1970. The action starts with the episode that provided the transition from the previous chapter.

In the comic strip, Heather is owned by the Marlin family, who were based on Kreigh’s family. Because the strip morphed out of KEVIN THE BOLD, the skipper kept the name Kevin. His wife has been rechristened as Jane, and their children take the names of Kreigh and Teddy’s oldest sons, Erik and David, despite being based on their younger sons, Kevin and Glen. Further complicating things (in my mid, anyway), is the appearance of Kevin fifth panel, where he looks less like his usual self and much more like my father, Erik. But I digress.

UP ANCHOR! was inspired by events my grandparents experienced aboard Heather, their 45-foot schooner. The strip was narrated from my grandmother’s point of view; Theresa helped write it. In October, 1959, Heather arrived in New Orleans with its four-person crew (which included my eight-year-old uncles), and the Big Easy is where the story begins for the Marlin family.

UP ANCHOR! fought against the stereotype of the wealthy boat owner, so the notion of Kevin Marlin offering Heather as a bareboat charter in order to generate extra income makes cents, er, sense (corny humor also runs in the family).

To be continued…


For more information on the career of Kreigh Collins, visit his page on Facebook.

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