Thursday, December 6, 2012


I was working aboard a schooner in 2000 when i met Joe. I had sailed on the schooner several times as a passenger, and when a chance came to fill in as messmate the latter part of the 2000 sailing season, i took it.

I have often wondered if Joe were related to Rodney Dangerfield because they share that same self-deprecating Eeyore sort of outlook. He enjoys a good joke, even if it occursat his expense, and is happiest at the helm on the schooner, on SFB's ketch, on another sailing friend's boat, or on mine. He can look at a boat on the water and tell you what kind it is, a history about the designer, and will give his assessment of whether it's one he'd like or not. Most of our sailing together has been on the schooner, and she is dearly loved. Fits like an old shoe, yet he's been captivated for awhile by trimarans. When we were anchored at a schooner gathering, a tri anchored nearby, its captain eager to gawk at so many windjammers in one spot. Joe and the mate took the yawl over to the tri so he could see it at very close range, and was thrilled to pieces when the tri's captain invited him aboard. The owner was looking to sell the tri after this world voyage, and yes for $8 million, Joe could live his dream. Not having that sort of money in his back pocket, he reluctantly said no, but was beaming when he returned, positively gushing about all the amenities she had on board.

His wife, like SFB's has had her fill of sailing, but we have always felt we knew their wives from what each has said about them. I got the sense the feeling is mutual because when i met both their wives, we fell to talking to one another right away, and i was sorry neither wants to come along for our sailing adventures.

I've sailed with Joe numerous times since that week-long trip in 2000, and nearly each time we play a little cribbage or backgammon, where i'm either terribly lucky or unlucky. SFB will pull out his guitar, and a group of us warble a lot of old songs. SFB has a notebook with the chords and words for the songs. I often sit next to him so i can read the words and sing along. Joe refuses to look at the words but will hum if he can't quite remember what they are and sing loud and strong for the parts he does.

He and Joe took quite a few sailing trips on SFB's boat, and a few times, they helped others sail their boats, and in some of those latter situations, had stories to tell. The one that always brings a smile to my face is the one where Joe mentions being so happy to get off the boat they had agreed to help sail that he kissed the dock as soon as he alit from the gunwhale.

After SFB sold his boat, he and Joe have sailed on the schooner mostly, and quite a few times, we were together for downrigging, the last day of the sailing season when everything comes off the boat and gets put away for the winter or gets worked on between downrigging and outrigging the following spring.

Once i moved to my current location, i could see both Joe and SFB more often as neither live that far away. Geographically speaking, i'm between the two, and the first few times we met on land, it felt funny. When Cappy got married, we all gawked as we looked at each other and our other shipmates all dressed up.

I didn't go on the last long trip in September this year, so didn't take part in all the zaniness, but saw them off at the beginning of their trip and was at the dock to welcome them back ashore. Joe and i discussed my boat a bit, and he and SFB helped me with my inflatable dinghy that decided to spring another leak. Or maybe it was a leak i hadn't mended properly. Yes, well, that would be something to consider over winter. Try mending it again or suck it up and buy a fibreglass one?

With the advent of social media, we could be friends on facebook and trade photos or statuses. Joe's wife, SFB's wife, and i play word games, and i have encouraged them to come sailing with us, but each holds fast to her "I've had enough sailing" rule. After each trip, before facebook but after the Internet became the norm, we'd email photos or links to photos of our trips, send along funny jokes, or newsy emails.

About three months ago, Joe emailed a bunch of us because he was planning a surprise party for his wife, who was turning 65 this year, and the party was going to be in mid-November. They were going to have it at a favourite Chinese restaurant of theirs. Their wedding anniversary fell about a week before--42 years. And so, most of us were able to attend the party, and even though i followed the google map directions precisely, we did have to ask another human how to get where we wanted to go. We got there with just enough time to slip into the room with the others, slip out of our coats and say hello to a few people before Joe and his wife arrived. She was simply stunned, and both wore huge smiles all evening.

It was great to see them. Himself had found a few things that he thought she'd like, even though Joe had said no gifts, just please come and celebrate with us. I had found a funny card i thought she'd like, and Himself found an Andy Warhol card he knew she'd love, since she's an artist. Which she did.

Lots of laughter and hugs all around.

Joe let us know via facebook that he needed to go into the hospital. Platelet count was low, needed a tranfusion. Doctors determined they needed to remove his spleen. So, he'd be talking to us in a few days. We all wished him well. His wife mentioned that they had to move him to critical care after the surgery. Um, okay, well he did just have surgery, better safe than sorry, and all that.

Last night i thought of Joe as i was dozing off to sleep, and said a prayer. It's just something i do when someone floats into my mind like that.

This morning, i found out that Joe died last night. Heart attack, apparently. All day, i've been trying to process this, and between crying jags, i go about my work day and can't quite believe it. The sun shone brilliantly during its short nine-hour stint as we barrel towards the Solstice, but there was a big gaping hole in my heart surrounded by a dark space, as there was in the hearts of my friends who have sailed with this man, listened to his corny jokes, weren't fooled for a moment when he tried to be curmudgeonly, and somehow think as i do, that he's going to pop in at any moment and say he was back.

I called SFB as soon as i heard. He thanked me for calling and we were on the phone less than five minutes. I cried after that, and i'm sure he did, too. Cappy posted a status, so many people could find out who had sailed with Joe and who perhaps hadn't met his wife or son. At lunchtime, i called another sailing friend to let her know, because although i knew she had a facebook account, i wasn't sure that she checked it all that often. I just thought of someone else who needs to know any may not have been told, so i'll make another of those sad calls.

Godspeed and fair winds, Joe. I hope to see you on Fiddler's Green.


  1. I wish him wind in his sails, and a calm sea. Sounds like what he deserves.

  2. Oh dear. His poor wife. I echo Cro's sentiments.

  3. Thanks, all. This definitely feels like a case of death happening when we were busy making other plans.