January/February 2004


Millwork’s Own Gilligan
Sailing Teaches Company President Life Lessons

by Samantha Carpenter

If Pete Delaney isn’t busy running the Port-O-Lite Corp. in West Swanzey, N.H., he has probably gone sailing. In fact, he may be on one of his twice-a-year sailing trips with his wife, Mimi, or children, Danielle, Devoney, Derek or Darcy.

Delaney has been sailing for 50 years and became involved as a child. His best friend, Archie, and his family “summered” down at the Connecticut shore each year, and that’s where he learned how to sail. Delaney’s family would rent a house at Cape Cod, Mass., every summer for two or three weeks, and he says that he would sail anything he could get his hands on.

“I made a lot of model sailboats as a child—little wooden things—and would sail those around the ponds.”

As he got older, Delaney began to become terribly sick when he would get back from a day of sailing. He was taken to a number of doctors, but none of them could figure out the problem. His father (who left the New England farm where he was raised to become an opera singer in his early career) said that Delaney’s problem was his ears. His father knew the solution—he would make Delaney learn how to play the trumpet. 

“I already know how to play the piano,” said Delaney, but his father said that it was time to learn how to play the trumpet, too. His dad was right … he has never been seasick since.

The first sailboat that Delaney owned was a wooden Sail Fish, which isn’t made anymore because the manufacturer went from using wood to fiberglass. His second sailboat was a Sun Fish—a very popular commercially-made small sailboat (less than 15 feet).

Delaney says that one of his favorite places to sail is Bermuda. It’s a “short” 632 miles from Newport, R.I. 

“You can do it in five days with good winds and certainly longer with bad winds. The nice part about that sail is it’s all open water. It’s just gorgeous. You can smell the flowers from 20 miles off shore,” he said.

Delaney said that some of his other favorite sailing spots are the Bahaman Islands, the Virgin Islands and the coast of Maine. 

“I’ve never sailed in Australia or New Zealand, but I do plan to go to New Zealand in March and hopefully will sail some there. I would just love to sail into Sydney, Australia, and see the Sydney Opera House from the water,” he said.

Delaney says that he likes sailing because it forces him to manage his assets.
“You are managing the wind’s direction and things are going at a less-than-frantic pace,” he said.

He likes that sailing has a quiet atmosphere and that you can’t really have a time frame. 
“You just have to say, ‘I’ll get back when I get back,’” he said.

Sailing has taught Delaney life lessons, too.

“It’s being able to be dealt a hand when you are on a sailboat and being able to manage that and play your hand the right way, so you end up where you want to be. In life it’s the same way,” Delaney said. “The only bargain you get in life is your brain; it’s how you use it that counts.”

“I think sailing really does to teach you to become focused and take care of the tasks at hand,” Delaney said. “You can’t say, ‘I’ll do that tomorrow,’ because you have to do it now. The better you are at doing those things, the better sailor you are. I think that translates into being able to run a business or do well at a job or do well in sports—it’s all related.” 


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