Requiem for a Sailor

Jamie Boeckel remembered by peers

In Newport, R.I., the town that Blue Yankee captain Jamie Boeckel called home, a ceremony was held in his memory on Monday night. Boeckel was lost off Blue Yankee in Long Island Sound Friday evening during the annual Block Island Race (for more information click here www.sailingworld.com/sw_article.php?articleID=961). To help his friends--and they are many-- deal with the loss, an impromptu memorial service was held Monday night at the International Yacht and Athletic Club, a favorite hangout of racers from around the world.

Out of the fog that covered Newport Harbor that evening came sailors, all of them friends and shipmates of Jamie. Aussies, Englishmen, Kiwis, South Africans, and local sailors, all who had been touched in some way by his life, came to share stories, hug, and shed a tear or two. In addition to knowing Jamie, much of the group in attendance that night had been sailing in the race in which he was lost. They spoke of the conditions that they’d experienced as the front that took Jamie’s life passed over them. Tales of shredded kites and scary roundups filled the smoky bar as candles in paper holders were passed to everyone.

At 8:30, Pat Kennedy, one of the owners of the IYAC, called for quiet and an unnatural silence filled the crowded room. "At around this time Friday night, we lost a friend," said Kennedy. As he continued, the candles were all lit, and at the end of his brief but heartfelt tribute, he raised his glass: "To Jamie," he said, and a low but powerful rumble from the assembled group echoed his words: "To Jamie." In the silence that followed, a voice from the back of the room called: "Three cheers for Jamie." and the crowd roared out three hip-hip-hoorays. The final part of the ceremony, asked for by another voice in the crowd, was a moment of silence. During that moment, the candles were tilted on the bar, dripping hot wax, and then placed, still burning, on the varnished surface.