DATE: Saturday, November 15, 1997           TAG: 9711150560

SECTION: LOCAL                   PAGE: B1   EDITION: FINAL 


DATELINE: NORFOLK                           LENGTH:   76 lines


It's a symphony of fiberglass, teak, aluminum and nylon. A poem of wind and salt spray.

Walter Cronkite, for 50 years a sage of American journalism and himself an old man of the sea, has given his custom-built sailing yacht to an organization that helps troubled teens learn the art and discipline of sailing.

``Wyntje,'' a 48-foot ketch named for a Dutch woman who was one of the broadcaster's first American ancestors, is berthed behind Nauticus, where she'll remain for the rest of the month, then set sail for Florida.

Cronkite gave the boat to the Associated Marine Institute, a nationwide organization dedicated to helping young people find alternatives to getting in trouble. The local chapter, the Norfolk Marine Institute, works with more than 40 teens in Norfolk and Portsmouth.

Wyntje (pronounced ``Winty'') has found a temporary home beside the institute's boat, CTII, a one-time Navy minesweeper, also berthed behind Nauticus.

``He liked our organization and what it stands for,'' said Christopher Burns, the Norfolk group's executive director.

``I think it's great because he took up sailing for the benefit of his kids. He still talks about his dream of going on a long-distance cruise with his son.''

Cronkite, 81, the former anchor for the CBS Evening News, was once regarded as the most trusted man in America. He is a special correspondent for CBS and continues to host programs, produce documentaries and teach broadcast journalism.

He also is associated closely with sailing and East Coast waterway guides.

Cronkite was traveling and could not be reached, but Marlene Adler, his assistant in New York, said that rather than selling his boat, he decided to ``give it new energy and new life'' by donating it to young people.

``This is beautiful; I love it,'' said an awed Robert Mercado, caressing the boat's polished wooden helm. The Norfolk youth said his performance in the six-month program gave him the rank of ``top dog.''

The 50,000-pound boat, custom-built for Cronkite in 1986, is loaded with wood, electronics and power. All the sails, for instance, can be set with the touch of a button.

Cronkite cleared out most of his personal books, but left several behind, including guides to the Caribbean, a treasury of American humor, a collection of Coleridge poems and a Mystic Seaport cookbook.

Cronkite wanted to keep the boat's name, so Wyntje will become ``Integrity,'' a name that echoes one of the program's chief principles, Burns said.

But it won't be the institute's for long. After sailing to Florida, it will be available for charter and eventually for sale, with the proceeds going to the organization.

A group of the top Norfolk students will help make the trip south at the end of November.

``That's me,'' volunteered Nicholas Clark, who graduates next Friday but will continue to work on his high school equivalency studies.

He earned his high marks by perfect attendance, good grades and discipline, Clark said.

``We're all working together as a whole,'' he said. ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

HUY NGUYEN/The Virginian-Pilot

``Wyntje,'' a 48-foot ketch donated by Walter Cronkite to the

Associated Marine Institute, is berthed behind Nauticus.


HUY NGUYEN/The Virginian-Pilot

Robert Mercado, one of the teens in the Associated Marine

Institute's Norfolk program, takes a look aboard Walter Cronkite's

donated sailboat. The organization helps troubled teens learn the

art and discipline of sailing as a way of helping them find

alternatives to getting in trouble.

Walter Cronkite's yacht will be chartered and then sold, with

proceeds going to the Associated Marine Institute.

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