Back when I was looking for my second boat (and between boats) and entranced by speed under sail, I answered an ad to crew (no pay) for a guy who had a corsair trimaran
of the type I was considering. Just day sailing
near shore in the open pacific outside Oceanside CA.
This gentleman was 82 years old, and I crewed for him a number of times. He'd slipped his boat even though it was trailer-able to reduce effort. He put his ad in craigslist and if he didn't get enough crew for his liking (2-3) on a particular day, he would call me back and say the sail was off.
He only helmed, and barked orders like a salty old captain. It pissed off a lot of younger slackers learning
to sail, but I understood where he was coming from and we became friends. The last few times we sailed together we'd sail just he and I because he trusted my competence to handle everything excepting the helm
The last time we pulled in, at the end of the day, he asked if I'd like to go have a beer
, which was the first time I'd heard of him drinking, and the first time he ever said anything other than "goodbye, see you next time" after we'd tied off.
We sat down at the marina bar and had beers and oysters, and he said "Well, that was my last sail. I'm going to have the yard haul the boat onto the trailer and ship it to my son in San Francisco
I asked him why, and he said it was just time. Didn't really explain his reasons, but I had noticed a decline in his vigor over a few months.
I said my goodbyes and never saw him again. His son called me six months later and asked if I was interested in the boat; his dad had told him to call me if he didn't want to keep it after he passed. I allowed that I had ruled out trimarans as too small for my family
, and asked about his dad. He'd died peacefully in his sleep about two weeks prior, having moved into a senior living center near his son in the Bay Area.
We talked a bit about his dad and I related some stories about his last days sailing. His son teared up and admitted that he disliked sailing with his father because of his father's demeanor towards crew, and asked why it didn't bother me. Not being his son I didn't take it personally and having been in the Navy
I understood the need and purpose for efficiency in communication. He said he wished he could have gotten there. We talked for about an hour, and I related some stories his father had told me about him that indicated he was very proud of him. In all a very nice chat.
It convinced me to sail until I just can't anymore, and showed me how to do it. There are plenty of kids
eager to learn who will do the work if you let them aboard.
I learned a lot from him, about sailing and about life.
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