It is rare that we meet a cruising couple as enthralled with boats as Carolyn and I are. Lin and Larry Pardey come to mind. Don Street still cares. So do Alvah and Diana Simon, and Mike Litzow and Alisa Abookire. And, on the tiny island of St. John, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where we are currently resting from the sea, there are Vicki Rogers and Thatcher Lord.
Thatcher, a shipwright originally from Maine, is also a fine ship’s husband. Vicki knows her way around a brush, be it in the service of fine art (they have spent years living off her drawings) or simply to put that 10th coat of spar varnish on their sailboat’s perfectly prepped cap rail. Whenever we get together as couples, we talk boats. While we don’t always agree on specifics, we always admire our mutual passion. We have firm ideas based upon a lifetime of service to our hard-used craft, and we aren’t shy about sharing them. Sometimes it gets heated. One of the reasons I’ve been thinking about all this is because we currently live in a yacht graveyard. Endless numbers of wrecks line the shore from Coral Bay to Cruz Bay in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is estimated that more than 63,000 boats were lost or severely damaged during the 2017 hurricane season. Each holed hull cries out to us, every forlorn mast top poking up through placid harbor water stabs our hearts. We care, deeply. We just can’t bear to see noble boats savagely wounded. It insults who and what we are as lifelong sailors and yacht caregivers.
What makes our concept of life, love and liberty so intertwined with boats and the sea? One factor is long-term involvement. Boats aren’t just a hobby, they are the centerpiece of our watery lives. We comb our hair in their reflection. You can judge us by our craft, and you can judge our craft by us.
Thatcher’s father, Franklin, taught him how to sail and race. But he also taught him that boats own you as much as you own them, that true sailors are more custodians of their vessels than their dictatorial owners, that boats are, for some of us sea gypsies, a sacred responsibility.
It’s a hard concept to put into words. I’ve thought about this for decades, with my pen poised over the page. The closest I can get is to say that certain sailors have the same compassion for their vessels as they do for their crews. This sets us apart, this romantic idea that we owe our boats something and that there is a sacred trust between us. This goes to the heart of what being a good
Thatcher Lord and Vicki Rogers aboard Trinka, their beloved Rhodes 41, in happier, pre-irma times.