Jim Avery: On the Thames with New London’s preeminent sailor
On his 44th sail of the year earlier this month, Jim Avery got a little too close to the construction at Electric Boat.
One could hardly blame him.
The 91-year-old Avery spent 48 years at EB, starting just a few months after graduating from New London’s Chapman Tech, working his way up the ranks to senior designer.
Since retiring, he’s spent most days when he’s able sailing the Thames River and his curious mind leads him to investigate whatever is happening on either the Groton or New London side.
“I’m blessed to be able to do this and just enjoy life,” Avery said on his 46th sail of the year, where he was joined by this reporter.
Spend a couple of hours on the water with Avery and you will learn about many things, mostly sailboats and submarines.
Avery “was born in New London and never left.” His goal this year is to get out on his boat on Monday, Nov. 14, his 92nd birthday. It is circled on his calendar.
He doesn’t get out on his 26-foot Nonsuch Luf Affair quite as much as he used to. He hopes to hit 100 sails this year, and his high is 168, although that was a few years back.
He decided, on his own, he is adamant to say, a few years ago to not go on the water by himself any longer, recognizing his own limitations.
Instead, he keeps a roster of potential companions next to his landline phone just a stone’s throw from Thames Yacht Club, where he has been a member for 65 years. And a phone call from Jim Avery for an invitation on the Nonsuch is welcome.
Spending as many years as he did at EB, Avery is both resourceful and industrious. He adapted an electric drill to raise the 450-square foot sail on the Nonsuch, and loves the fact the boat’s captain never has to leave the cockpit to sail the boat.
Avery typically is the first sailboat on the river from Crocker’s Boatyard every April 1.
“I may not be the only one out there, but I’m sure I’m the oldest,” he said.