CHARITABLE FOCUS FOR 3-TIME 470 WORLD CHAMPION TOM LINKSEY02 Dec 2014
When Dave Ullman won three 470 World Championship titles (1977-78, 80), he did it with Tom Linskey, himself a dinghy legend from California. While Linskey continues to sail, his competitive energy has been replaced by a charitable focus.
Here is his update originally published in BoatU.S. Magazine
In seven fast-paced years, my wife Harriet and I upended our lives from “full-time cruisers who do some charity work” to “full-time charity operators who do some sailing.” The U.S. based child literacy nonprofit, Hands Across the Sea, which we founded from our 46-foot catamaran (also named Hands Across the Sea), has effectively taken over our lives.
It all started back in 1986 when we cruised our 28-foot cutter, Freelance, through Baja California, Mexico, and on to the South Pacific, where we were struck by the awe-inspiring beauty, but also by the poverty of some of the local people. We helped out where we could, but had no way to make a real difference. Fast-forward to 2007, when we sold our house, bought a Dolphin 460 performance-cruising cat, and set out cruising again. This time we wanted to cruise and make a difference — a real difference.
While sailing our cat in the eastern Caribbean, we visited local schools (Harriet is a former teacher), and the school principals told us the same thing: Child literacy is a serious problem. Most children grow up without books in the home (too expensive), and while schools have textbooks, budgets don’t stretch to reading books — the kind of books that develop a love of reading. It upset us to see bright, eager children growing up without access to books.
So in 2008 we sent our first shipment from Massachusetts, 25 boxes of books and 10 boxes of literacy resources, to three Caribbean schools. Six years later we’ve delivered more than 175,000 books, reaching more than 55,000 children at 250 preschools, primary schools, and high schools. Each year, we serve about 100 schools, community libraries, and reading programs (an average shipment is about 25,000 to 35,000 books, and weighs around 20,000 pounds). We send brand-new, age- and culturally relevant, asked-for books, and literacy resources.
Hands Across the Sea is our full-time obsession now. We sail about 3,500 miles every year, from New Bedford, Massachusetts, to “our” schools in Antigua, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, the Grenadines, and Grenada. The boat serves as our transportation and living quarters.
Still, when we’re sailing — a moonlit passage in the Gulf Stream, a trade wind romp with airborne dolphins, from Dominica to St. Lucia — we know how lucky we are. After enjoying 40 years of sailing (and 28 married cruising years), we’ve sailed into the ultimate reward: the chance to pay our good luck forward.