After her father's passing, a daughter reunites with his beloved yacht.
Like many adults who spent their childhood aboard a family sailboat, Annapolis resident Kathy Milio’s early sailing experiences impacted her in ways that have lasted long after the sale of the family’s beloved boat. Until recently, Kathy assumed that those precious days of sailing on the family’s beloved 40-foot Bermudian cutter Binker would forever remain simply fond memories, but who could have imagined the extraordinary events that would reunite the family with the boat they cherished?
During the mid-1960s Kathy’s father, Melvin Seddon, purchased the 1934 Starling Burgess-designed yacht and kept her on Long Island Sound. Kathy’s mother, Anne Marie Seddon, helped maintain the boat, and Kathy remembers long sails with her parents and brother, Michael.
“We spent so much time on that boat that I memorized the knots in the wood trim down below,” recalls Kathy, who is now married with three children of her own. “Binker truly was a beautiful boat, and after my mother, she was the love of my father’s life.”
“The name Binker comes from a poem of the same name in the A.A. Milne book, “Now We Are Six,” says Kathy. “In the poem, Binker is the imaginary friend of Christopher Robin (of Winnie the Pooh fame), and I have always thought it very cool that Binker’s sail number was 17, and the poem is found on page 17 of the book. Kathy continues, “Beyond her wonderful name, Binker had a real lineage and had been the subject of several published articles, most recently in the British magazine Classic Boats.”
Although Binker was a big part of Kathy’s childhood, eventually she and her brother grew up and left home, and in 1987 Kathy’s parents sold Binker. For a time, her father kept in touch with the new owner, but after the boat was resold, he lost track of her. Several years later, Kathy, missing what felt like a part of the family, tried searching for Binker via the internet. Although she found the boat in England, the owners at that time didn’t respond to her inquiry.
Then in January 2015, while mourning her father’s recent passing, Kathy again turned to the internet to reconnect with the boat that had been her father’s passion. The search led to a wooden model boat forum. An individual had posted pictures of a model of Binker, which he had created based on publications of her drawings. Kathy commented on how well the model was made, that her family had previously owned the boat, and offered to provide more information.
Kathy recalls, “Within hours, a response was posted by an unrelated woman, Penny Robinson, who stated that she and her husband Jamie were the current owners of Binker and asked for more information because they were in the process of restoring her.
“What a shock,” recalls Kathy, “especially because they were located in a remote area of Scotland and traveled frequently, yet happened to be on the forum on that same day. I felt that it had to be more than coincidence, that my father really had a hand in that,” she says wistfully.
Kathy soon learned that the Robinsons had found Binker in 2008 in a state of disrepair in Latham Boat Yard in Poole, England. After purchasing her as scrap, they had the boat hauled over land and then by barge, to Doune on the Knoydart, a peninsula in Scotland’s west coast, where they undertook what would become an eight-year restoration project.
Penny says, “When we first saw Binker, we had been searching for at least a year for a boat to restore. It was, as they say, love at first sight. She was covered in boatyard debris and dust and shoved right at the back of the shed obviously untouched for many years. Despite this, her beautiful lines were clearly visible, and she stole our hearts.”
Penny continues, “When we first started chatting with Kathy we were very excited, as we had been trying to find a previous owner for more than a year. We were also apprehensive in case she was the previous owner who had lost Binker to the yard and might want to insist that she still had a claim on her. However, once the family started sending copies of their wonderful photos, we put that worry firmly aside and enjoyed the relief of actually having a photo to work out how to rig her and where the fittings might go on the deck.”
Kathy and her mother provided the Robinsons with as much information as possible, and the families got to know one another well enough that eventually the Robinsons invited Kathy, along with her mother and brother, to visit them in Scotland and to once again sail Binker.
In August 2015, the trio travelled to the Robinson’s remote Scotland home, where the boat was to be kept on a mooring near the Robinson’s house. Penny says, “When they actually said that they were coming, we were very excited to meet them, especially as they were proving to be gutsy people like us. At the point when they booked their flights, we were a little apprehensive because we still hadn’t launched, so we felt a bit of pressure to get her sailing, which was probably good. We were also anxious that they might not think that we had done a good enough job with our constrained budget. We were concerned that Anne Marie in particular might find it very upsetting, and as typical Brits who don’t like overt emotion, that was a worry! As the date grew closer we kept checking and rechecking the weather, as Scotland in the autumn can produce some very bad gales. We had such a small window to make their dreams come true, and we needed to deliver.”
And deliver they did. “Seeing Binker in Scotland was surreal and amazing,” Kathy says. “We took a train (the Harry Potter train) up from Glasgow, and Penny and Jamie picked us up in Mallaig, the closest town. They took us by boat over to Doune on the Knoydart Peninsula. It’s nothing like we see here, where boats are kept at a marina or private dock. The Robinsons kept Binker in a harbor area. Jamie and Penny circled her in the launch boat, so we could check her out more closely, and then let my brother and I board her.
“It was so incredible, because even though some things were different on her, she felt the same, smelled the same, and had those familiar wood knots I had memorized as a child,” says Kathy. “To sail her again after all these years was unbelievable. One of many things that stood out sailing that day was using the same mainsail that was on the boat when I was a child. A replacement and other new sails had been ordered, but not yet arrived, when we were visiting. For a sail that was more than 30 years old and had been stored in the back lot of a marina for a long time, it was incredible that it was still working so well, and still had the sailmaker’s stamp from Port Washington, NY.
“The Robinsons are such lovely people,” continues Kathy, “And we had such a good visit that we invited them to visit us in the states.” Last October they visited my mother in the Catskills, then she drove them to my brother’s near Rochester, and from there they drove down to visit me in Annapolis. Their total visit was only one week, but they were with me to partake in Halloween, which they don’t have in Scotland. We also visited the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, among other places. The highlight of the visit was a personal tour of the Baltimore Harbor Light, which a friend is restoring.
“Their time in the States was so wonderful that I have just booked tickets to visit the Robinsons in Scotland in June and July. I expect the experience of watching my three girls board Binker is going to be incredible, something I don’t think I could have ever have imagined happening. It’s going to be amazing to give them a taste of my childhood. What an incredible opportunity and fortune to have found Binker ‘alive’ and loved, and to have made great friends too!”
By Beth Crabtree