We first laid eyes on Chuck and Jeanne in September, 1985. It was dark by the time Pat and I returned their Island Packet sailboat to the dock that night in Rock Hall, MD. Our charter vacation aboard their beloved Relationship was coming to an end, having been rudely interrupted by Hurricane Gloria. We were overdue, having been delayed by the storm. With the concerned owners of the yacht perched anxiously on the dock awaiting our arrival, we were tired and more than a little nervous about executing a reasonably proficient dockage maneuver in darkness.
Chuck and Jeanne greeted us warmly as they assisted with dock lines. We briefly summarized the charter experience and the excitement of storm preparation while they helped us pack our belongings into our car. Bidding farewell that night, we agreed to meet again in the near future to become better acquainted. Little did we know at the time that this was a landmark moment, marking the beginning of a close and formative bond that would flourish for thirty years.
With encouragement from Chuck and Jeanne, we became part of the Island Packet family by purchasing our very own IP 29 in 1991. We participated in the annual Island Packet summer raft-ups in Rock Hall, MD. Ever the life of the party, Jeanne was always first in ceremonially firing the first water balloon salvo. She served as an example to other boaters by unloading her high-pressure water cannon on enemy positions. She was not constrained in any way by the confining limitations of adult behavior.
During annual buddy boating vacations to Williamsburg, VA, Block Island, RI and Washington DC, Jeanne always pushed hard to achieve bragging rights by finishing each leg ahead of the other participants. On a more serious note, we attended lectures and Safety at Sea Seminars and accomplished our first overnight sailing experience together.
As Chuck and Jeanne approached retirement, they purchased a brand new Island Packet 40 for extended cruising. In 1996, I served as a crewmember aboard Relationship for a shakedown sail to Bermuda…my first offshore experience. Later that same year, I crewed aboard their boat in the Caribbean 1500…a voyage that began in Hampton, VA and ended in the British Virgin Islands. Jeanne took these rallies very seriously, constantly urging the crew to increase boat speed in order to cross the finish line first in class.
In subsequent years, Pat and I were frequent guests aboard Relationship as Jeanne and Chuck circuited the Caribbean. Jeanne was always the consummate entertainer, inventing fun things to see and do while making the hard work of provisioning the galley and preparing meals onboard appear effortless.
Collectively, these experiences planted the seed for our own explorations under sail. I dare say that we would not be cruising the Caribbean today had it not been for the example set by Jeanne and Chuck.
In all of these events, Jeanne was a delight to be around. She was energetic, quick-witted, adventurous and competitive. She was not one to shy away from espousing or defending an opinion. When I was seasick during the first few days of the sail to Bermuda, Jeanne comforted me. When we stood watch together at night during the 1996 Caribbean 1500, we were politely asked by our fellow crew members to mute the laughter. Jeanne paid little attention to this criticism. From her perspective, a little fun to keep the night watch awake and alert always trumps the need to keep the off-watch crew rested.
Last year at this time, Jeanne and Chuck joined us for a week aboard Cutter Loose to sail the waters of St. Lucia, including a visit to the Pitons. Being together on the water again took us back to another place and time. During their visit, we recalled many fond memories of good times spent in one another’s company, both on and off the water.
Well done, Jeanne. You stood your watch with dignity, purpose and a sense of humor. May you rest in peace. We will surely miss you. Our hearts are filled with loss and grief, even as our thoughts, hopes and prayers are with Chuck during this difficult and lonely time.
January 4, 2015
Sainte Anne, Martinique