Monday, August 25, 2014
I met Stef when he came to Ketchikan in about '88 to promote his sail loft in the Seattle area. During local yacht club races he hopped on my boat and noticed I hadn't stripped all the extras out to reduce weight like some of the others.
I had just hopped on board with a load of fast foods, beer and ice and sailed over to the starting line. In jest he commented that I was one of the more civil skippers because not only did I have beer but it was on ice.
Needless to say, we hit it off instantly.
He showed me how to hold course and speed at a starting buoy with a simple trick. Another boat was trying to use its size and weight to get me out of their way.
Stef stood up, looked at the other skipper that was 20 feet away and simply pointed to me and said, "This man has a minimum wage job and doesn't have a dime's worth of insurance."
The skipper panicked, quickly changed from his collision course, hit the buoy and had to restart.
Stef had a Baltic 42 sailboat and lived a dream of his own by entering the TransPac back in '89. He took a bunch of wealthier people with him for the race but offered me the chance to accompany him on the return trip from Honolulu to Tacoma.
My sense of humor can be pretty dry. A lot gets missed and during the trip not one single double entendre, hidden comment or smart- assed remark got past him. He didn't miss a thing.
We also shared a watch one night with a period of about 5 hours of confused, shifting winds. When things started getting weird he put a tape of Gregorian chants on the tape deck to add to the surrealism as we steered the boat through several 360 degree turns just to keep the sails filled.
He was an excellent tactician and instead of a straight route from Hawaii to Tacoma he headed well off course to follow a Pacific high pressure area and we wrapped ourselves around the high. This meant we covered an awful lot more miles but at a greater speed and we beat a number of boats back to Puget Sound.
The trip was a celebration of life and one of the most gentlemanly voyages I have ever been on. Every day cocktails (a warm beer) were at five and dinner was at six.
I remember him not batting an eyelash when we entered the prestigious Honolulu Yacht Club. The doorkeeper asked our names and club affiliations. I told the doorkeeper I was Joseph Hazelwood of the Valdez Yacht Club and told him Stef was Captain Edward Smith of the Cunard Yacht Club.
It went over the head of the doorkeeper and he announced our entry as I had given it to him.
Joe Hazelwood had been the skipper of the Exxon Valdez and Smith had skippered Titanic.
Several members picked up on it and had a pretty good sense of humor. Instead of getting thrown out we were welcomed. The three or four days we were there we never had to pay for a drink and they gave us the run of the place.
My wife and I are planning a trip to the northwest next summer and I went to look up Stef to have dinner with him and found out he died last year. He is one of the damned few of my formative years friends that died a natural death.
Smooth sailing, Stef.