Monday, November 28, 2016

Evanston: Rich Huffnagle; the center of the earth

        An inevitability of growing old is that increasingly some of those you knew die, until you become the one who others outlive.
        According to an unofficial class historian, roughly one-third of the 375 who graduated with me from Kirkwood High School in June 1959 have died.
        Last year I was stunned to learn that Jill, one of my ex-wives, had died.  I had not seen her for decades, but she was years younger than I and it never occurred to me that I would out live her.  I was informed of her death by one of her two daughters by a previous marriage, whom I remember as a teen-ager.  Now she is in her early forties and has adult children of her own.
        Jill was a natural athlete and died of a heart attack in mid-stride while running.  The doctors said that it was so massive that she did not suffer; but I am not aware of anyone who has sent back reliable reports from beyond that edge so how would they really know?  Still it would have been, like drowning, two or three bad minutes, rather than months or years of suffering.
        Over the weekend I received an email from Ron that Rich Huffnagle has died.  Rich was the man who sold me CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE.
        Ron worked with Rich for more than twenty years as Orange County, California, park rangers.  I remembered that Rich was a park ranger.  Ron also said that he had brought a Drascombe Longboat from Rich.  The Longboat is a Lugger stretched three feet.
        Over the years I’ve often told the story of how I bought CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, and sometimes I still do.
        Back in 1978 when I was considering an open boat voyage, less than two years after completing my first circumnavigation, Suzanne and I were living in an apartment in San Diego.  Some research, and I don’t recall how I did it in those pre-Internet days, revealed that Rich was the part-time west coast representative of Honnor Marine, the English builder of Drascombes.
        I telephone him, learned that he had a Lugger on a trailer in his driveway, and arranged to drive up one Saturday to see it.
        Suzanne, a New Zealander, had been with me in the California for more than a year, but had still to see all the tourist attractions.
        We drove up the Interstate and pulled off onto one of the many streets lined with small pastel stucco houses that now are worth well over a million dollars.  I’m not sure Rich lived in Anaheim.  If not, he was close.
        When we stopped in front of his house, I was immediately struck by how pretty the Lugger was.  I’ve always thought her lines graceful.
        Rich saw us arrive and came out and introduced himself.
        I walked around the boat, studying the hardware, which was superior, and the construction, which was excellent.  Then I asked if I could step into the boat while it was on the trailer.
        Rich said I could.
        I did.  Looked around what might be called the cockpit, except that the whole boat is the cockpit, and then lay down on the floorboards.  There was just enough room for my shoulders to the side of the centerboard truck.  I stood up, grinned, and said, “I’ll buy one.”
        “Great,” Rich said.  “What are you going to do with her?”
        “I’m going to sail her around the world.  But we’re going to Disneyland first.”
        Rich cashed my check very quickly.

        I saw Rich a few times after that.  Even appeared at a boat show with him once.  And then, as often happens, we lost touch.
        Rich was a nice man.  I hope he had a full and rewarding life and a gentle exit.


        The last journal entry caused Patrick to view the chart of my circumnavigations and reach an unexpected conclusion.  He wrote:  One thing that is obvious.  Opua is the center of the earth.  There are more tracks leading in and out of it than the U.S.  Eleven tracks in Opua.  Ten out of San Diego and NY.
        In fact, although I did live in NY for a year, the tracks are mostly from Boston.  And the chart is behind times.  Opua should have two more, one in, one out with GANNET.  And San Diego one more for my departure in GANNET.
        Should you wonder, only my first circumnavigation started and finished in the U.S.
        The second and third were Nuku Hiva, in the Marquesas Islands, to Nuku Hiva.  The fourth Sydney, Australia to Sydney.  And my fifth, Opua to Opua.
        If all goes well, the sixth will again end in the U.S.
        That Opua is the center of the earth is undeniable.