Sad and good tidings on pages of life’s news

Midwinter 2009

By Dodge Morgan

I wonder if this global recession plays any role in the rash of sad news we have witnessed recently. Olin Stephens died, Francis Stokes died, I sold Wings of Time, and Tom Snyder has put Blue Moon up for sale in an announcement in the October/November issue, ending his affair with sailing.

A footnote to the impressive list of achievements for both Stephens and Stokes would be that they were true gentlemen. Neither of them were inclined to sound out their successes. Both carried a quiet, self-effacing presence that exuded a fundamental self-confidence, at least to those with the ability to sense it.

I once witnessed Olin’s appearance before students in a boat-design class. He wore expressions of pleasure as he listened to the young people extol their creative ideas. It took a direct question for him to speak up: The student who wanted to know the most important factors in rudder design got a classic Stephens answer, objective and precise yet ending with the question, “What do you think?” Olin chatted up the design ideas that flowed from the class and only spoke of his own when one student asked if Dorade was really what gave him his start in the hierarchy of designers.

Francis was the classic solo sailor, competing before the spotlight on the sport became red hot. He sailed a production cruising boat, unheralded in a number of solo ocean races, and may be known most for his rescue of fellow sailor Tony Lush in a BOC circumnavigation. Lush’s boat dropped its keel, flipped, and finally sank just as Francis hauled him aboard his boat.

I understand Lush brought just his passport and a bottle of booze with him since he knew Francis to be a nondrinker at sea. I once watched as Francis sat in attentive silence with a group in the bar on Goat Island as one guy blared out his rather meager solo techniques and achievements, probably unaware he was in the company of one of the best.

I have actually sold my Wings of Time, which keeps me one boating step ahead of Tom Snyder who has simply put the for-sale sign on Blue Moon. I still have the little, old schooner Eagle, so am not carrying my oars inland until someone asks what they are. Ironically, it takes me a half-hour to get under way with the schooner, which I am keeping, and three minutes with the sloop I have sold. What I do next remains a question. Sailing the schooner is a revisit to the past – no electronics, no sail-handling gear, no standing headroom, no self-steering, camping-style galley. I have owned this 82-year-old for 40 years. Another boat now? Sail or motorsailer or power?

I have decided to carefully observe Snyder’s upcoming lifestyle decisions for the entertainment value and for evidence of where popular trends are not heading. My guess is that Tom will avoid wet, cold places, varnished surfaces, and boat brokers. I hope he will tell us how to laugh our way out of this global recession.

On the heartening page of life’s news, I note that F. E. “Ted” Hood and a family crew took top honors sailing his recently restored, first-design Robin to victory. And I sailed Eagle back to Paul Bryant, at Riverside Boat in Newcastle, wing-and-wing all the way from Cape Small to the Damariscotta River entrance.

Dodge Morgan singled handed around the world in 1986. He now sails out of Swans Island, Maine.