Even the greatest minds need a rest now and then, and in the 1930s Albert Einstein rested his in New England, spending several summers in Watch Hill, R.I. and at least one in Old Lyme, Conn.
Einstein, the legendary physicist who gave the world the theory of relativity, liked to relax playing the piano and violin, and sailing.
In the summers of 1933 and 1934 he was a regular sight sailing a 22-footer in Watch Hill. And his sailing around the waters of Connecticut were legendary – mainly for occasionally running aground. With his easily recognizable features, it was impossible not to notice when he landed on a sandbar, which may have contributed to the widely held – and probably exaggerated – notion that Einstein was not the best sailor ever.
Einstein was wildly famous and easily identified in America, where he came to avoid persecution by the Nazis in his native Germany. As Hitler had intensified his persecution of Jews, the Nazi’s had seized Einstein’s home, turning it into an Aryan youth camp; they stole and sold his sailboat and burned his books.
Though he didn’t know how to swim, Einstein continued his sailing in exile in New England and New York. During his New England vacations he also would often would meet with other scientists and debate principles of advanced mathematics and physics in the cool summer evenings.
His thoughts, however, also strayed to his lost homeland, and he kept careful note of the schedule of Hitler’s speeches so that he could listen to them on the radio while watching the waves from the cottage he rented in Rhode Island.