Featured image: 2014 photo of Jake Burridge, courtesy Ipswich Chronicle. Original color photo by Kirk Williamson.
In October, 2016 I was privileged to speak with Jake Burridge, a legendary 99-year-old Ipswich native. His wife Marsha graciously shared photos for this story.
Jake grew up on Linebrook Rd., where he received his earliest education at the one-room Linebrook School. His class was one of the earliest to graduate from the Ipswich High School on Green Street, now the Ipswich Town Hall.
Jake loves to sail, so when the second World War started, he joined the Seabees as a member of the United States Naval Construction Forces (NCF). He took on a very dangerous job, diving in a full diving helmet to clear debris in harbors, and when necessary, planting dynamite to facilitate the work.
On his return from the war, Jake began contracting, and was member of the Ipswich Auxiliary Fire Department.
Borrowed text and photos below are from an article in Ipswich Today, July 1, 1983, with additional information from the Ipswich Chronicle.
In November 1982, Jake Burridge, already in his 60’s, set out on his 33-foot sailboat “Trepidation” from Gloucester and set his course for the Bahamas. He’d made this trip before, but this time was harder. “There were gale watches all down the coast. It was windy, cold and miserable.” A trawler named “Lovely Lady” that he was sailing with dragged its 65-pound anchor, and a ship from Hyannis was demolished, but Jake kept going. Jake took a Christmas break, then returned to Florida, continued south to Key Biscayne, and then set out for Nassau,where he was joined by her wife. Together they sailed through very rough seas to Staniel Cay, where she took a plane home, telling him that he was “stupid to be risking your life out there every day.”
“She had a point,” Jake confessed, and he began to wonder, “What the hell am I doing out her,” but he stayed with it, cruising the outer islands of the Bahamas. In the ports, the weather-bound sailors had time to get to know each other. One such fellow was heading for Cape Hatteras on his 41-foot sailboat, but Jake decided not to accompany him. Two days later the friend and his ship were lost at sea. Jake saw his own foresail split down the middle when he waited too late to shorten sail.
Asked what he thought about on his journey, Jake replied, If you’re sailing single-handed, there isn’t much time to think about anything else besides what your next move is going to be, or when the next bucketful of water is going to hit you in the face.”
After he returned home, Jake considered his wife’s advice, but he had always wanted to cross the Atlantic Ocean. He purchased a worthy boat in the Netherlands, named it Trepidation just like his other boats, and sailed it down the European coastline. The next year he and a crew sailed the boat from Gran Canaria, reaching the Bahamas in 21 days, 2800 miles. This was not his last voyage. Burridge would later take Trepidation from Nova Scotia to the Caribbean.
Jake no longer sails, but he has 99 years of sailing stories to share with you.
In the fall of 2016, Paul Valcour and Gordon Harris dropped in on Jake Burridge and recorded the interview below: