Notables

Josephine Hunter Potter
Author

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“Everyone has a dream of adventure or escape,” wrote Josephine Hunter Potter.  “Ours had always been a dream of a cruise in a boat of our own to parts unknown.”  Married in the years before World War II, Frank and Josephine Potter read books on boating, haunted marinas looking at boats, and would even drive out to check promising looking Boat For Sale ads.  Frank’s service in the war and the birth of their children meant that their dream, although never forgotten, was deferred again and again.

In 1947, the year their fourth and final child was born, Frank Potter found himself dissatisfied with his job and the couple again started looking for a suitable vessel.  Having agreed to sell their home and belongings when such a boat was located, the Potters made the plunge when they found “The Seven Seas,” a two mast, 46 ft. schooner, which boasted a bathtub big enough to wash the children and a galley that could accommodate Josephine making meals for six.  Frank gave notice at his job as a sales manager and they sold their eight room home in Newton, Massachusetts to, as Josephine put it, “live, eat and sleep in a space smaller than the living room of that house.”

The boat was purchased on June 5, 1948 and the family of six set sail on September 14.  They set course for Pittsburgh—Frank’s hometown—following The Atlantic Coast around Florida, crossing the Gulf of Mexico and then sailing up the Mississippi and the Ohio Rivers.  At the time they started their trip, their children ranged in age from 12 year old Nancy to 1 year old Ross.  Almost complete novices at sailing, the Potters weathered many storms, troubleshot endless engine problems and once unknowingly sailed into the middle of U.S. Naval torpedo practice.  Neither Frank nor Josephine had expected the children to help with the running of the boat but, by the end of the trip, the older children could rig and trim the sails, help with the mooring and take soundings in shallow water. 

By the time the family arrived in Pittsburgh on August 6 they had become something of a media sensation.  News of the big family on the little boat hit both local and national papers and reporters were waiting to photograph and interview them at ports all along the last leg of their journey.  When they pulled into port at the Point they had traveled over 6000 miles in 11 months.  Josephine later chronicled their adventures in a book bearing the truthful title, No One Fell Overboard [which is the source for all of Mrs. Potter’s quotes in this article.]

All newspaper accounts of the family’s adventure stated that their intention was to sell The Seven Seas and settle down in Beaver or Pittsburgh.  When Josephine died in 2000 her obituary stated that she and her husband lived on a boat in Kentucky for several years until moving to Williamsburg, Virginia, where she died at age 92.