In Memoriam: Steve Black, 1943 – March 17th, 2014

 

Steve BlackSteve Black was the founder of the Bermuda Rally and the Caribbean 1500.  These annual group sailing events introduced thousands of East Coast sailors to offshore passage making.  Through classroom education and camaraderie with other like-minded sailors, Steve actively encouraged coastal cruisers to become offshore voyagers.  As Director of U.S. Sailing in Newport, Steve was imminently qualified to lead these cruising rallies, having completed dozens of offshore voyages, including a single handed transatlantic crossing.

One of Steve’s skills involved the ability to prepare would-be voyagers for going to sea. He focused on the mental aspects of offshore voyaging.  He understood the first timer’s fear of the unknown.  He treated fear as an asset.  He dissected the fear factor and explained how to manage fear to one’s advantage.  Steve imparted the confidence needed to tackle a challenging assignment.  To be certain, he instilled good seamanship skills.  But his methods could be applied equally to other challenging aspects of life.

I first met Steve in the spring of 1995.  He was the keynote speaker at a Passagemaking Seminar in Norfolk, Virginia.  I attended this event with Pittsburgh friends Chuck and Jeanne Berrington.  Two months later, I completed my first offshore passage from Hampton, Virginia to Bermuda aboard Relationship, the Berrington’s brand new Island Packet 40.  Later that same year, I crewed aboard Relationship again, completing the 1500 nautical mile journey from Hampton, Virginia to the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.  Being at sea and arriving safely at a lush tropical island after nearly two weeks of ocean sailing captured my soul and imagination.  I was so exhilarated by the experience that I vowed right then and there that someday, I would sail my own boat to the Caribbean.

On behalf of all of us who dared to dream about longer passages, I wish to say thank you, Steve Black.  Your watch has come to an end.  With your guidance, the helm is now in good hands.

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