Deceased , Modern
1916 – 2009
Sailing-related Accomplishments and Honors and Contributions: Walter Cronkite, arguably one of the greatest television anchormen of all time, had an honest style of reporting and intrepid dedication to the facts that led Americans to dub him, “the most trusted man in America”. His list of honors, awards and achievements in the world of journalism are legendary: he won the Peabody, George Polk, and William Allen White awards for journalistic excellence. Arizona State University named its journalism school after him. He won multiple Emmy awards and was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame. He was also the first non-astronaut awarded NASA’s Ambassador of Exploration Award and was the first living person inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians in the capitol building at Jefferson City. In 1981 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. From coastalboating.net, an excerpt about Cronkite as a Martha’s Vineyard resident:
• Honorary Chairman, National Sailing Hall of Fame Board of Advisors 2006 – 2009
• The first National Sailing Center and Hall of Fame induction ceremony, in 2011, was dedicated to the memory of Walter Cronkite
• Wrote, and contributed to, several books on sailing:
South by Southeast, by Walter Cronkite, illustrated by Ray G. Ellis. Oxmoor House: 1983
North by Northeast, by Walter Cronkite, illustrated by Ray G. Ellis. Leisure Arts@ Inc: 1986
Westwind, by Walter Cronkite and Ray G. Ellis. Oxmoor House: 1990
Around America: A Tour of Our Magnificent Coastline, W.W. Norton and Co: 2001
Comeback: My Race for the America’s Cup, by Dennis Conner and Bruce Stannard, edited by Paul C. Larsen, foreword by Walter Cronkite. St. Martin’s Press: 1987
Eagle: America’s Sailing Square Rigger, by George Putz, Introduction by Walter Cronkite. The Globe Pequot Press: 1999
A Reporter’s Life. By Walter Cronkite, Ballantine Books: 1987
• Member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary; honorary rank of Commodore
• Member of New York Yacht Club
• The National Maritime Historical Society (NMHS) has named an award for him: The Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Maritime Education. This award “honors individuals and organizations whose outstanding achievements in maritime education bring history alive for young people, providing real life results and getting young people involved in the continuous process of learning that will have a fundamental impact on their lives.”
• Brought sailing to the national consciousness by encouraging, producing, and hosting programs and TV coverage of the America’s Cup. Among some of his most widely watched programs were:
A 60 Minutes segment in which he reported on the America’s Cup in 1977 with Ted Turner
The History of the America’s Cup, 1851 – 2007, an hour long documentary that was the result of a collaboration with Gary Jobson for ESPN (narrated by Cronkite)
The Cronkite Report – 1987 America’s Cup, an in-depth look at the competition for the 1987 America’s Cup.
Narrated, with Gary Jobson, a History of New York Yacht Club: 1994
As a reporter, he was so well-regarded, that Lyndon Johnson once reportedly said, “If I have lost the trust of Walter Cronkite, then I have lost the trust of America”.
This towering figure in the world of journalism was also an avid sailor who contributed much to the world of sailing. He lent his iconic voice and talents to several reports and documentaries on sailing, tirelessly fundraised for sailing organizations and education, and authored books reflecting the beauty of the coast as seen from the eyes of a sailor.
His love of sailing is nicely summarized in the following excerpt from an article from the Baltimore Sun:
Cronkite Loved To Go Down To the Sea In Boats
July 26, 2009|By FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN
“After having spent many years racing Austin-Healeys, Volvos and Lotus Elevens, Walter Cronkite finally gave up the rough-and-tumble sport of competitive driving, to his family’s great relief, and turned to the sea for relaxation…”
“… Cronkite, who acknowledged that he had read plenty of books about the sea, didn’t know the first thing about sailing when he began on a Sunfish in the late 1940s. But he was hooked.
‘Sailing for me, though, has satisfied many urges. For one thing, it feeds the Walter Mitty in me, the inner heroism with which James Thurber endowed his unforgettable character,’ he wrote.
‘I never sail from harbor without either a load of tea for Southampton or orders from the admiral to pursue that villain Long John Silver and his rapacious crew,’ he wrote. ‘I love the challenge of the open sea, the business of confronting Mother Nature and learning to live compatibly with her, avoiding if possible her excesses but always being prepared to weather them.’
Cronkite, who became an accomplished ocean sailor, told a Baltimore Sun reporter in a 2006 interview that he didn’t consider any boat that he owned christened ‘until it fully toured up and down the Chesapeake Bay.’
His last boat, the two-masted 64-foot Hinckley sailing yacht Wyntje (pronounced win-tee) was named for the first woman to marry a Cronkite in 1642 in the New Amsterdam colony. It had a full-time crew of two.
During summers, the Wyntje was docked off Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard, where the broadcaster had a summer home for more than 30 years.
Summer sailing day trips, with Cronkite at the helm, were to Nantucket or Newport, R.I., while longer voyages explored the rocky coast of Maine, with Camden Harbor a favorite destination.
In the fall and spring, he enjoyed sailing between New York City and Annapolis. Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, was the vessel’s winter home, before returning in the spring to northern waters.
Locally, one of Cronkite’s favorite ports was Annapolis, where he became friends with Mike Ashford, a former Eastern Airlines pilot and sailor who opened McGarvey’s Saloon and Oyster Bar in 1975.
In an interview some years ago, Cronkite told a reporter that McGarvey’s was the ‘best sailors’ watering hole on the East Coast.’
‘We met at a fundraiser years ago. Walter and Betsy were the celebrity couple, and we just hit it off. We discovered we had a lot of the same interests in boats, books and drinks,’ Ashford said in an interview the other day.
‘And we’ve sailed together for more than 35 years, and it’s been lots of fun. When he signed the contract for his last boat, he did it on my dining room table,’ said Ashford, who traveled to New York City on Thursday to attend Cronkite’s funeral and say a few words at the invitation of his family.
‘Walter loved sharing the experience of sailing. He loved getting cold and wet and knocked about at times. He could never understand why people didn’t see the fun in that,’ Ashford said, laughing.
‘I remember one time in an Annapolis-Bermuda race, we went through one of the biggest storms I had ever been in. One of the boats went down, but we made it through,’ he said.
Ashford said his friend loved autumn sailing on the Chesapeake, when the Eastern Shore was dressed in fall colors and flocks of geese and ducks wheeled overhead on their southern migrations.
‘Walter loved being at the helm or below navigating, calling out headings or listening to bells,’ Ashford said.
Once back on land, Cronkite set sail for his friend’s saloon, where he sat on his favorite corner stool sipping a Scotch and water or a frosty glass of beer while eating a burger and talking sailing.
‘He liked the crowd at McGarvey’s and talking about sailing. People treated him just as another sailor, and I was proud of that,’ Ashford said. ‘He really was hard to get to sit still for very long. He had lots of energy and wanted to either be sailing or out in boatyards looking at boats.’
He recounts the often-told tale about the broadcaster’s menu dilemma, when he wasn’t sure whether he wanted a steak or a bowl of chili, so he ordered both.
‘He dumped the chili on the steak, and for a while we had the Cronkite chili steak on the menu. Only one person ever ordered it, so we quietly dropped it,’ he said, laughing.
Cronkite often stayed with Ashford. The two friends would swap sea tales while enjoying bourbon and puffing on cigars.
‘He always loved sharing good fellowship,’ Ashford said.
‘There is nothing more satisfying than dropping anchor in an otherwise deserted cove just before sunset, of pouring that evening libation and, with a freshly roasted bowl of popcorn, lying back as the geese and ducks and loons make your acquaintance and the darkness slowly descends to complement the silence,’ Cronkite wrote.
“Walter Cronkite was selected by the Vineyard community as a Community Hero, representing the seasonal resident from Edgartown, for his contribution to Sail Martha’s Vineyard. For more than 20 years, the Sail with Walter Cronkite has been a highlight of The Possible Dreams Auction, generating thousands of dollars each year for Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. When Martha’s Vineyard Hospital created an endowment fund, Mr. Cronkite added his voice to the educational video. He is also the host of The Celebration of Heroes educational video honoring residents exemplifying the Vineyard spirit, and he headed up the Edgartown Harbor Clean-Up.”
Sailing-related Accomplishments and Honors and Contributions:
Walter Cronkite, arguably one of the greatest television anchormen of all time, had an honest style of reporting and intrepid dedication to the facts that led Americans to dub him, “the most trusted man in America”. His list of honors, awards and achievements in the world of journalism are legendary: he won the Peabody, George Polk, and William Allen White awards for journalistic excellence. Arizona State University named its journalism school after him. He won multiple Emmy awards and was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame. He was also the first non-astronaut awarded NASA’s Ambassador of Exploration Award and was the first living person inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians in the capitol building at Jefferson City. In 1981 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
From coastalboating.net, an excerpt about Cronkite as a Martha’s Vineyard resident:
Preserving America’s Sailing Legacy
Engaging Sailing’s Next Generation
Stay Connected to the National Sailing Hall of Fame