Now that the country is in the height of summer, every spare minute finds Marian Ossman ’73 of Hopkinton, Massachusetts, out on the water in a sailboat.
Ossman has been sailing since the age of 5 when she was taught by her father in Crystal Lake, Illinois. At Ripon College, she majored in English with a focus on American literature – “which was what brought me out to New England,” she says.
By day, she works in the children’s library at the Wellesley Free Library in Wellesley, Massachusetts. She runs book groups for young people and their parents.
“I’ve been there for more than 20 years, and I love sharing my adventures with the kids and their families,” Ossman says. “I love working with the kids, helping them develop a love of reading and researching and developing interests. It’s mentoring, and I’ve seen several generations of kids grow up.”
One such young woman, she says, has just left for Germany as a Fulbright Scholar. “I’m just thrilled to see them move forward in their lives,” she says. “Being in a public library, you’re at the heart of the community. It’s much more than books and magazines. It’s a cultural resource and a gathering center for adults and children.”
On the east coast, she also has discovered a passion for saltwater sailing. “What’s different from freshwater sailing?” she asks. “Tides, currents, winds, storms, hurricanes, wear and tear on the boats. Navigation is much more of an issue – reading the charts, doing the math. It’s wonderful.”
Ossman is a member of the Pelagic Sailing Club (www.pelagicsailingclub.org), which has matched up crew members and boat owners for more than 45 years and lets people from Maine to Rhode Island and beyond enjoy sailing together. Ossman has never owned a boat but is matched up as a crew member with those who do.
“It’s a wonderful community for people who enjoy sharing sailing, talking about sailing, problem- solving about boats and boatwork,” she says. “It’s a nice network of people who are interested in sailing. Sails go up to Maine and down into New York and up the Hudson River. Boats cruise out to the islands – Block Island, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard – and up to Salem and Gloustershire. The Boston Harbor islands are beautiful and steeped in history.”
She says the club has about 150 members, and she has made a lot of friends through the meetings and crewing on boats.
“We’re a social club with a sailing problem or a sailing club with a social problem — we go back and forth,” she says with a laugh.
For the past two years, she served as commodore of the club and is past commodore.
“A commodore is like the chairman of the board of the club,” she says. “You maintain the long-term vision of the club while implementing your vision. It’s a get-things-done position.”
This suited her just fine. “The yachting culture once was dominated by men, but it is a growing trend for women to be more and more involved in leadership positions in the sailing world,” Ossman says. “I got tired of dating the guy to sail the boat, and when I got to sail with women I preferred it. When I race with a man, he says, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’ When I race with a woman, she says, ‘What do you want to do?’ I like to be competent and self-reliant.”
Ossman calls her current level of activity “pre-retirement planning,” as she plans to devote even more time to sailing after she retires.
“The wonder of moving across the water with only the sail to propel you, the connection with history, being on the water and under sail is poetry, history, mystery and general delight,” she says. “It’s beautiful – not to mention the hard work. But I love to work with people who have a shared interest.”