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Family’s Love For Lake, Antique Boats and America Drives July 4th Morning Cruise

photo by Jerry Hale

Once again this July 4th, the Quinn family of Morningwood in Franklin County will celebrate the anniversary of America’s birth with an early morning antique boat cruise from Marker B25 to Hales Ford Bridge and back.

This is the fourth year their 1940 Chris Craft 23′ Barrel Back Triple, fittingly named “Patriot,” has made the July 4th run at SML, crewed by family members and friends who must be totally garbed in red, white and blue to be invited along. More costumed participants tag along in the family’s modern Chris Craft Launch.

But the tradition of a July 4th costumed cruise goes back 18 years, previously occurring 14 times on Lake Champlain, where the Quinns owned a summer home before refocusing their passion for lake life on Smith Mountain Lake.

Each year owner Tom Quinn skippers “Patriot” while family friend Bruce Ibe (Tom’s former college roommate) stands at attention in the the aft cockpit, garbed as Uncle Sam and proudly holding an American flag in his left hand and a crisp military salute with his right for the entire ride.

At SML, that’s about 50 minutes each way, and though Ibe is carefully tethered in for safety, holding that position non-stop – sometimes in rough water and less than cooperative weather — takes commitment and stamina. “It’s the least I can do to express appreciation for living in this wonderful country,” Ibe says.

Weather for July 4th looks to be pleasant, however, which will be good for the turnout of other antique boaters planning to join the procession as it winds down the Blackwater, past Bernards Landing, and up the Roanoke river to the Bridge.

“Last year we had close to a dozen boats following by the time we got to the bridge,” said Alan Frederick, president of the SML Antique and Classic Boat Society. “This year we’re starting an hour later (8:00 a.m. Sharp, adjacent to marker B25) and will make Hales Ford Bridge by about 8:50 – hopefully with even more boats in the procession.”

“There will definitely be several antique boats that join in,” added Frederick,”and we welcome any other vessels capable of 25 mph to join us as well . . . We would love to find a welcoming crowd at Bridgewater’s transient docks to greet us when we arrive. They can enjoy inspecting the fleet of antique boats that will tie up there while Bruce rests his arms and prepares for the return trip.”

“This would be a great year for Lakers to come out and help solidify this tradition at SML.,” said Meredith Quinn, Patriot’s co owner and mom to four daughters and a son who always dress head to toe in red, white and blue for the occasion. “Join the procession as we cruise by your part of the lake, or meet as at the Bridge when we arrive—and join in the celebration of America’s birthday!”

Jerry Hale

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