The Working Waterfront

The summer of Cronkite

Legendary network news anchor loved sailing in Penobscot Bay

Richard Flagg
Posted 2022-07-13
Last Modified 2022-07-21
Walter in boat
Walter Cronkite at the helm.

Walter Cronkite was known as “The Most Trusted Man in America” when he was the anchor of CBS’s network news in the 1960s and ‘70s. His sign-off “and that’s the way it was” was recognizable to millions. Cronkite refused to allow his personal beliefs to affect his job of reporting accurate news. It was his integrity and commitment to fair reporting that made him the most trusted man in America.

For me, his most endearing quality was that he loved Maine and sailing around Penobscot Bay.

If there is such a thing as an unassuming 64-foot yacht, the two-masted vessel owned by Walter Cronkite was it. While some owners turn their boats into floating palaces, Cronkite’s Wyntje was the kind of boat on which you could spill your wine and not worry about being thrown overboard.

In 1989, the year of Vinalhaven’s centennial celebration, Cronkite was asked to grand marshal of the parad. With delight, he accepted our small town’s request.

The parade consisted of fire engines, floats, vintage cars, and most of all, the proud islands residents. The marching band was made up of musicians old and young, experienced and novice, but what they lacked in harmony they made up for with heart.

Many of my family members attended the celebration. Our large gaggle gathered in front of the Star of Hope building. Cronkite as grand marshall sat high on the horse-drawn steam-powered fire pump (used between 1900-1920).

Being that our town is so small we got to enjoy the parade twice as once going through it quickly makes a U-turn at the town’s gazebo, repeating it all.

As Cronkite came by on the parade’s first pass, all 50 of our friends and family around us, in unison, waved and cheered: “Hi, Walter!” Minutes later,

on his return leg, again in unison, we waved and with warmth cried out, “Bye Walter!”

With a huge smile, Cronkite laughed, slapped his thigh, and waved back his goodbye.

It’s the small things that make up life!

—Richard Flagg