David Roper

Dave Roper has been a regular columnist for Points East for many years. Next to sailing, telling and writing stories is his favorite pastime. His books include Watching for Mermaids (a three-time Boston Globe best seller), Beyond Mermaids, and Rounding the Bend. All can be purchased through amazon.com or via his website: www.roperbooks.com His entertaining special event readings have been delivered at over 30 clubs throughout New England.

Dave has been a yacht delivery skipper, captain of a 135’ Mississippi River stern wheel cruise ship, and life-long cruiser along the coast of Maine aboard his 31’ Independence sloop, Elsa Marie. Dave is the founder of A-Script, a career advisory and resume writing firm in Marblehead, MA. Davidroper00@gmail.com


‘In the wild, you get one mistake’

August 2022 By David Roper This is a continuation from the July issue of an excerpt from Dave’s upcoming book “The Ghosts of Gadus Island” August 1985 Fog, Gadus Island After a breakfast of corned beef hash and eggs, Sophie climbed a couple steps on
Read More

Anchored off Gadus Island, we meet Carey

This is a continuation from the June issue of an excerpt from Dave’s upcoming book, The Ghosts of Gadus Island. July 2022 By David Roper August 1985 Fog, Gadus Island Cleo awoke to find their world embraced by a blurry soft white and edgeless cocoon
Read More

The Ghosts of Gadus Island

This is a continuation of Dave’s piece in the January/February 2022 issue, an excerpt from his novel (retitled), “The Ghosts of Gadus Island.” June 2022 By David Roper …She turned to her teenaged daughter Sophie, who was now leaning forward over the cabin trunk, anxiously
Read More

The boaters’ bible

Back when I was 17, I took my first bible to sea. Oh, not that Bible. But a yellow paperback one. I figured it was maybe my best resource as I set off solo on my greatly modified ‘round the world adventure aboard my $2500,
Read More

A journey into the past

January/February 2022 By David Roper These are the first published opening pages of Dave Roper’s new book, “Odin’s Island,” inspired by a true story. Odin’s Island – 1985 It had gotten cool, and the wind had started to increase and turn northeast, and this gave
Read More

A couple of aging vessels

Boat and owner share some characteristics. They're both getting older, but not ready to part yet.
Read More

Thoughts of separation – a confession

"I can't keep it from you any longer," I told my wife. It was a tough message to deliver, but I had to do it, for her sake.
Read More

Outgrowing oversized ambition

Atlantic crossing? Let's think about that a little more.
Read More

Sailor’s Jeopardy: It’s knot what you think

Where does "Slush Fund" actually come from? Pick up some valuable trivia to impress your boating friends.
Read More

My six rules for non-boaters

July 2012 By David Roper When visitors from landlocked places come sailing with us, it’s really sweet. They’re so excited, and try their best to assimilate to the sailing world, buying the proper boat shoes and sailing shorts, researching and trying out a few terms
Read More

The wave pilot vs. the flickering screen

June 2021 By David Roper Let’s face it: We humans are fascinated with screens. They’re everywhere. At every boat show there are throngs around the latest electronic breakthroughs. The marine store catalogs are filled with page after page of electronics. On boats, these electronics have
Read More

An Easter story, 1959

A man does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures – and that is the basis of all human morality. – John F. Kennedy May, 2021 By David Roper So, what should he do? There
Read More

Having “the (dock) talk” with my doctor

Spring and the boating season was fast arriving. It was time for "The Talk." Yeah, THAT talk.
Read More

Virtual voyage? Anchors aweigh

Midwinter 2021 By David Roper There are good ships, and there are wood ships, The ships that sail the sea. But the best ships, are friendships, And may they always be. -Irish Proverb You could easily say that the pre-COVID-19 photo on the following page
Read More

If one is going to sink . . .

A 21-year-long relationship meets a soggy, although predictable, ending
Read More

The Gulf, golf and the kid

How do you get a teen-age boy to go cruising in Maine with his father (no, this is not the lead to a new joke), to share in the joy of quiet nights under a blanket of stars, to be away from his friends, from
Read More

Tiny boats and huge yachts

  As soon as you set foot on a big yacht you belong to someone, not to yourself, and you die of boredom. -Coco Chanel   By David Roper For Points East Magazine Tiny boats and huge yachts. The allure is almost always there, despite
Read More

In search of the Red Paint People

By David Roper This year’s cruise to Maine was supposed to be a quiet, reflective time spent mostly anchored alone in a bay I’ve always loved. For the first time in many years, my wife would sail with me on the Downeast leg from our
Read More

A fairy tale for grownups

By David Roper For Points East Once upon a time there was a man who felt that his life was a canvas painted in various shades of gray. His job lacked challenge, his friends were dull, and his girl didn’t cast her eyes down and
Read More

Sailing way into the past

“We’re getting to be antiques,” I whispered to Elsa, as I collapsed into the cockpit after dropping the old Herreshoff anchor 50 yards off a nearly abandoned fisherman’s wharf. It was the end of a brisk fall solo sail, a late cruise, as I was
Read More

Life’s a beach . . . or is it?

By David Roper In these times of COVID-19, statistics show that many people are virtually escaping to paradise via YouTube. If you Google “Sail to Paradise,” you’ll get 40,300,000 hits. As of today, there are 1,300,000,000 YouTube videos out there, movies from every imaginable category.
Read More

The case of the missing Maglite

The Buddhist desire is to empty oneself in order to be filled. In this time of “social distancing” we certainly have an opportunity to slow time’s winged chariot, to empty ourselves of all the chatter and clatter of everyday life, to fill up the spaces
Read More

Rot in the bullshead

By David Roper For Points East Editor’s note: Dave Roper is on vacation, so we’re cutting him a little slack this month. Here is one of our favorite columns of his, which ran in April, 2013. They owned a small inn on the coast of
Read More

Beaufort and the blowhards

As with fish tales and fishermen, we boaters have a tendency to exaggerate regarding the size of the wind. And why not? After all, there’s nothing so boring as an average statistic. Exaggerating wind speed, especially if you’ve been out in it on the water,
Read More

Saltwater sores and all

Romance: a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life. I was in my mid-20s. A hopeless romantic. Alongside me sometimes stood a mailman or a UPS driver, sometimes both, by the pavilion on the right bank of the Mississippi River in
Read More

‘Beyond Mermaids’

In ancient Roman times, Atargatis was a beautiful and powerful priestess who fell in love with a human shepherd boy. He, simply being mortal, did not survive her divine lovemaking and died. She became pregnant with his baby and soon became distraught and remorseful. After
Read More

A beacon of sound and support (in the fog)

What often happens in Maine did: fog. How thick was it? Suffice to say, one year we could only electronically determine that we had “made harbor” each night. Even then, we were only half certain we were “in harbor” at all. Rarely did we see
Read More

The boat who wouldn’t go away

I’m writing this the day after receiving an email with this picture and a note that said her owner just couldn’t keep her up; that it was so sad to see such a beautiful yacht decline; that he was considering giving her away if anyone
Read More

Heartfelt issues: Straining under load

Last summer I wrote a column about First-World problems and a bumblebee. Well, really it was about an engine that would struggle under load, making a sound not unlike a person choking to death. I dared not throttle up when that happened; hence, I ran
Read More

Plan B involved a ’67 Johnson

Last month, in the library of my town of Marblehead, Massachusetts, my friend and neighbor put on a world-class exhibition. Not of books, art or music. But of antique outboard motors – 20 of them. It was an exhibit of the first 50 years of
Read More

Conversations in the cabin

There’s always been something special about conversations in the cabin. Maybe it’s the feeling of having “made harbor,” perhaps after a long day at sea, the anchor dug in nicely, the stinging spray and wind now gone from our faces. Somehow, fears and trepidations get
Read More

A love story and a ghost story

For three years, Barry was my crew chief aboard a 135’ Mississippi sternwheeler I used to captain on the Upper Mississippi. But he was more than that. He was an incorrigible practical joker and a daredevil. He rode his 1000cc motorcycle at insane speeds, pulling
Read More

A first look at knots

The following is a sneak peak at David’s forthcoming book, “Beyond Mermaids: Life’s Tangles, Knots, and Bends,” content that will likely appear as the preface of the book. It’s tempting to draw out the world you want from a picture. A lot of what we
Read More

Finding a true harbor

If a man knows not what harbor he seeks, any wind is the right wind. Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Roman Statesman, 50 AD Years ago, I wrote about embarking on a process of understanding which is the right boat for each of us, and doing that
Read More

Unintended consequences

In my late 20s, I somehow bit off more than I could chew, talking the owners of an emerging excursion boat business into implementing my grand plans for its expansion. I modeled this expansion on another business I worked for: the 10th largest excursion boat
Read More

The Bumblebee was wrong

Those of you who read last month’s column know I saved the life of a bumblebee and that, as he was headed to shore, he buzzed me. Not that kind of buzz. More of an informational kind of buzz. You see, my engine had been
Read More

First-world problems and a bumblebee

I’ve always liked bumblebees, but that Sunday morning my mind was elsewhere when I spied one on deck, upside down and caught under the jib sheet. I wasn’t in a compassionate mood, as my broken engine diagnostic process was reaching the end of the line
Read More

Following your hero’s wake

When my dad gave “Sea Gypsy” back to me, he wrote on the inside cover page: “The Bible as Translated for David Roper.” It’s true, I did want to follow in the author’s wake. Even as a teenager, Peter Tangvald’s sailing vagabond lifestyle appealed to
Read More
Capt. David Roper aboard a Mississippi paddlewheeler. Photo courtesy David Roper.

When you come to a fork in the river, take it!

Once upon a time, 35 years ago, I lived in a houseboat under a bridge on the Upper Mississippi River, where I happened to captain a 135-foot sternwheel cruise ship. Having grown up on the ocean, I’d always thought of the Mississippi as some legendary
Read More

There, but by the grace of God . . .

Years ago I wrote a column about my notorious, crazy and fearless water-borne antics as a teenager. Most of these occurred in a 1960s-vintage Boston Whaler in and around Marblehead Harbor. And most of the negative outcomes from my antics were due to excessive speed.
Read More

The tide waits for no man

David RoperOur oceans aren’t turning back. That’s clearer than ever, especially during our recent devastatingly high tides, which got me to thinking about old King Canute. I regularly walk by Brown’s Island, a lovely spot off Marblehead only accessible by foot at low tide.
Read More

‘Silence in the Age of Noise’

For Christmas my dear wife gave me two books with the word “silence” in their titles. Perhaps she was trying to tell me something. They are both amazing. I haven’t shut up since. Really, though, I seek silence. On land. At sea. It recharges me.
Read More

‘Boat Talk’ with Clevis and Pinhead, the Shackle Bros.

Well, you are about to embark on another enlightening, informative, instructive, illuminating, enthralling and clarifying episode of “Boat Talk,” hosted by The Shackle Brothers. As a bonus, we’ll also have a new round of The Puzzler, designed to stump all of you; or at least
Read More

‘Boat Talk’ With Clevis and Pinhead, the Shackle Brothers.

As a devoted fan of “Car Talk,” the much-loved call-in radio show, I could never understand why there were never similar format shows on other subjects. Why not “Wife Talk,” or “Husband Talk,” or “Parents of Teenager Talk?” Why not “Boat Talk?” Well, you are
Read More

Listening to your inner ear

“A sure cure for seasickness is to sit under a tree.” Lord Nelson Until he went to sea with young Cubby on his sail back from Maine in a small cruising sloop, Big Red hadn’t been seasick and never dizzy when he got ashore. That
Read More

Insufferable opinions: Who’s a curmudgeon?

“You should keep your opinions on all this boat stuff to yourself, Dave,” my dear wife said the other day, just after I’d picked up the mooring and settled down in Elsa’s cockpit. “They’re really just observations, not opinions,” I replied. “People are different. They
Read More

Tech and humans: It takes two to tango

I used to be scared when I went to sea. But it was a healthy fear that was good for me, and got me this far. Then along came the kind of technology that exuded certainty, almost saying, “I’ll handle this part. I’m always correct.
Read More

Escaping to Live the Dream? Maybe.

Robert Pirsig became a sailor subsequent to the success of his five-million-copy bestseller, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” He also easily broke my publisher-rejection record, with 121 publishers saying “no” before one took him on. He holds the Guinness record as the most
Read More

Retiring before 30

“I don’t know, Paul,” I said in an uneasy tone as I sat on the couch of the big-time yacht broker who’d set up most of my boat delivery jobs. “I need to draw the line and quit this business before I’m 30. “I’m not
Read More

Boats as reflections of one’s stage of life

It was in the midst of a long stretch of nothing as we headed home from Maine – hour after hour of incessant, greasy, undulating seas and an occasional glimpse of land off Cape Neddick – when my old psychologist friend spoke. We’d both been
Read More

What makes Points East work?

In the midst of this year’s Points East holiday gathering I wondered, as I have done yearly at this event, why does this magazine “taste” so good? Why the devoted readership? Why the nearly 100 percent staff attendance at this party, year after year, many
Read More

A little dinghy and a fear of whirlpools

A bucket list adventure to the Pacific Northwest ends successfully for our columnist, but now withhout a bit of disaster.
Read More

Bucket-list Adventure: Points way west

“This is not only a gripping story, but also one of the most dramatic and detailed sailing adventures of all time,” said none other than Walter Cronkite on the dust jacket of Ferenc Máté’s novel, “Ghost Sea.” Nearly a century ago, on the wild British
Read More

When Zeus is mad

As we rounded Appledore Island at the Isle of Shoals Saturday afternoon, I crossed my fingers. It was high season, a weekend, and unbelievably hot ashore, so I feared all the moorings in the Shoals’ Gosport Harbor would be taken. But it was worse than
Read More

Men are from Mars . . . the marine version

As I was rigging some new jib sheets on board Elsa last week, a fleet of little 420 sailboats, each crewed by two young teens, sailed by me in Marblehead Harbor, headed in after a race. These kids were happy, smiling, and very polite to
Read More

Chang Ho’s most romantic evening

This month’s column was tight on deadline because I had to wait until June 5 for the release of critical information regarding Chang Ho’s mystery evening abduction in 1999. I have now obtained that information, which reinforces the phrase “the truth is stranger than fiction.”
Read More

A sneak preview of Roper’s new book!

Since the announcement of the upcoming publication of “Being Big Red,” a bunch of Points East readers have asked me, “How about a taste of what’s to come?” So why not a sneak preview? Here’s a piece from the middle of the book. “Big Red”
Read More

Being in two places at once

A good friend who is editor of a particular magazine I write for sent me a nice note a couple years back when I said I had a real conflict and couldn’t make it to an important event. “Well, Dave, I’ve yet to meet anyone
Read More

Grace and dignity: The beauty within

“It’s not what you look at that matters; it’s what you see,” Henry David Thoreau wrote. He might have been thinking about this vessel. I know I was. And I knew I was looking at something beautiful. Something still beautiful. Others strolled by, seeing nothing,
Read More

October 2010 By David Roper Faith, fear and fateThe strong southeast winds had not dropped with the sun as they usually did that time of year, and the threatening black ledges 30 yards from Elsa’s stern off barren Smuttynose Island were close enough to show
Read More

A cautionary tale of 1959

September 2010 By David Roper As they rounded the point, the fog came right back. Just then, the young boy caught the first smell of spruce and felt the warmth of the land. Despite the fog, he looked for the entrance to the cove, eager
Read More

In search of simplicity

August 2010 By David Roper The thousands of items of marine gear on the market today supposedly exist to allow us a myriad of choices to facilitate our ability to get away, go boating, relax and be happy. I wonder, though. Robert Bellah, one of
Read More

Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore

July 2010 By David Roper It’s 3:22 a.m. on a Friday in June and I’m sitting on Elsa’s starboard berth looking across at a small oil painting of Marblehead Harbor that highlights a handful of gaff-rigged sloops and schooners from another century. The painting has
Read More

Finding the light

June 2010 By David Roper Eight or nine miles out, in plain sight, Boon Island lifts its solitary shaft aloft like an ‘eternal exclamation mark’ to the temerity of its builders. There is no comfortable dwelling on that lonely rock, over which storms sweep unchecked.
Read More

May 2010 By David Roper Why I’ve never sailed around the worldMany years ago – at age 16, in fact – I decided to run away to sea. I had been reading of Robin Lee Graham’s adventures as a globe-circling, solo sailing teenager. Seemed like
Read More

Bound to boats and life

April 2010 By David Roper He broke his right hip at what was then his “advanced” age of 87. He was lifting the battery out of Coda, his last and final boat, which was tied to the dock at the end of a pier. He
Read More

The compelling dreams of aging sailors

Midwinter 2010 By David Roper On Dec. 15, 2009, Kenneth Ketchum, age 80, decided to sail alone to Mexico from Houston on his Downeast 32 sailboat. He had been living in his recreational vehicle, which he sold to buy the boat. One hundred and fifteen
Read More

The last sail

December 2009 By David Roper The boat was very tired, and the thought of getting her out of the shallow Maine cove, and sailing her to Massachusetts, made me feel weak and jittery. The paint on the sides had lost its high-gloss finish, and had
Read More

Kissing the bride

October 2009 By David Roper She lay languidly between the arms of Harbor and Hall islands in the midst of ledge-strewn Muscongus Bay and, despite the disheveled condition of her captain and two mates who had not seen the likes of soap, razors or toothbrushes
Read More

Watching the nest

September 2009 By David Roper The wing of sail divides wind and then wind joins it together again. Nothing is used, so nothing is wasted. The Tao of Sailing Hold those words and bear with me. Think about cycles – life cycles. I know I
Read More

Big Red and driving the bend

August 2009 By David Roper The year I met Big Red I was living alone in an ark under a bridge in St. Paul, Minn., on the Upper Mississippi River. Dave’s Ark was a 42-foot home-built steel houseboat which, due to its ancient and long-ago
Read More

Watching vastness and why we do it

July 2009 By David Roper Late afternoon finds her standing at the very edge of the sea, waves just touching her toes, the rising onshore breeze lifting her hair, sunlight glowing against her skin and faded neon bikini. One of the locals, one of the
Read More

Someone’s been sleeping in my bed

June 2009 By David Roper The most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you? Go ahead, name it. But you won’t top this: Actually, the absolute King of All Embarrassing Moments was witnessed not by me, but by my boss the year I was
Read More

I’ll have one order of paradise to go

May 2009 By David Roper Years ago, back in my boat delivery days, I was hired to help a couple head off on the first leg of their dream. They were an anxious pair, long on their romantic vision of “escaping and living the dream,”
Read More

Mermaids and confessions to The Stem

April 2009 By David Roper July 12, 1959: 44.04N/68.35W, a small island east of Isle au Haut, Maine: So I ran, as I always did. Actually seeing two mermaids was all too much for a 9-year-old to understand. Who in the world would ever believe
Read More

The truth about mermaids

Midwinter 2009 By David Roper June 15, 1608: In 1608, the English navigator Henry Hudson was skirting the polar ice off the Arctic coast of Russia in his second attempt to find a northeast route to the spice markets of China. Near the coast of
Read More

Peeling back the layers: The Roper Boats

December 2008 By David Roper On May 5, 1994, my now 92-year-old dad (aka, “Grampy” to Points East readers) self-published a book called “Roper Boats.” The book contained both pictures and narrative, done in his inimitable style, describing about 40 Roper boats owned either by
Read More

Watch out when you think you know a lot

October 2008 By David Roper I have eaten lunch in the Driftwood restaurant on Marblehead’s waterfront with the same three guys (a group known locally as “the boys“) once a week, 52 weeks a year, every year for the past decade. Over these 500-plus lunches,
Read More

Why are we here? Are we going to be OK?

September 2008 By David Roper For the last three days and nights there’s been just two of us in here. Two boats. Two people. He’s about a hundred yards away, aboard a tired 21-foot low-end cabin sailboat. One spreader droops down forlornly like the broken
Read More

What if whales weren’t big?

August 2008 By David Roper The four of us were sitting around a mesquite-wood campfire at the base of a canyon amid the hills way outside of Tucson, near the old Tucson to Tombstone stagecoach road. We had spent all day in the saddle, my
Read More

The rewards of uncertainty

July 2008 By David Roper Remember responding to that “double dare” as a kid? Remember looking down off that ledge or that railroad bridge on that hot summer’s day and feeling pressure from your peers overcoming your basic survival instincts? Many of us jumped. Stupid.
Read More

Moving Forward in Reverse

June 2008 By David Roper A Points East reader fortunate enough to keep his lunch down while getting through my column about my holding-tank surgical removal struggle and the resulting effluent assault asked a legitimate question: So what did you put in that big space
Read More

When no one else is watching. . . .

May 2008 By David Roper “Hope for the best, but Plan for the Worst.” A famous round-the-world sailor had this imprinted on his companionway bulkhead. I guess he did it as a constant reminder. Makes sense. Those of us with a few miles under our
Read More

Waste not, want not

April 2008 By David Roper Thousands, maybe millions, of seagulls, geese, cormorants, ducks and fish poop into the water all around me 24 hours a day when I go cruising. But my waste is human waste, which apparently is a special excrement and needs a
Read More

Coming of age on the starboard side

Midwinter 2008 By David Roper My age of innocence ended around midnight one Saturday in the summer of 1969. It happened alongside a cruising yawl named Seaduction. What I inadvertently caused to happen, and what I experienced in a few short minutes, gave me my
Read More

Fly away, old Buddy, fly away…Buddy? Buddy?

What began as a promising relationship between man and bird ended tragically.
Read More