Cruising World - - On Watch -

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.

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